Aug. 7, 2018 - Former Minister of Industry & Commerce Donville Inniss was arrested by U.S. authorities on Friday, Aug. 3 and had his initial court appearance on Monday, Aug. 6 in connection with an indictment charging him with laundering bribes. The bribes that Mr. Inniss allegedly received came from a Barbadian insurance company in exchange for official actions he took to secure government contracts for the insurance company. 

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI New York Field Office made the announcement.

Mr. Inniss, who is 52, is a U.S. legal permanent resident who resided in Tampa, Florida, and Barbados. He was charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering.

The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15.

According to Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski, “Donville Inniss allegedly used the U.S. financial system to launder bribes he received while serving as a government official in Barbados.” He added that “These charges demonstrate the commitment of the Department and our law enforcement partners to hold accountable anyone who seeks to use our financial system to promote or launder the corrupt proceeds of their crimes.” 

U.S. Attorney Donoghue said that “As charged in the indictment, Inniss abused his position of trust as a government official by taking bribes from a Barbadian company, then laundered the illicit funds through a bank and a dental company located in the Eastern District of New York.” 

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the indictment alleges that in 2015 and 2016, Inniss took part in a scheme to launder into the United States approximately US$36,000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of a Barbadian insurance company.”

The release, which is available on the Department of Justice’s website, as well as a copy of the indictment, states that “In exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to enable the Barbadian insurance company to obtain two government contracts.  To conceal the bribes, Inniss arranged to receive them through a U.S. bank account in the name of a dental company, which had an address in Elmont, New York.”

The two counts of money laundering are as follows:

On August 17, 2015, “A wire transfer of approximately US$16,536.73; and on April 18, 2016, a wire transfer in the amount of approximately $20,000, both from a Bermuda Company account in Bermuda to a bank account at a bank labelled only as “Bank 1” in Elmont, New York, in the name of a” company named only as the New York Dental Company.”

The press release noted that “The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

Aug. 8, 2018 - John Wight, the chief executive officer of the Bermudan insurer BF&M, has confirmed to the island’s newspaper The Royal Gazette that the Barbadian insurer is the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Ltd (ICBL), in which BF&M has a majority interest.

The story, titled “BF&M-owned insurer involved in bribe claim,” appears on the Gazette’s website, dated Aug. 8.

In an indictment unsealed by US federal court for the eastern district of New York, in which former Barbados minister of commerce Donville Inniss was charged with conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering, the US prosecutors do not name the Barbadian company, nor the Bermudian-based majority owner.

However, Mr Wight, who is chairman of ICBL, is quoted on the Royal Gazette’s website, in a story filed on Monday Aug. 8, that: “In 2016 the board of directors of ICBL became aware of improper conduct by certain senior managers.”

He added: “ICBL has a zero-tolerance policy for this conduct and immediately dealt with the issue in the appropriate manner. I am not able to elaborate any further on this matter at this time.”

The indictment alleges that three executives of the Barbadian company at the time of the events, the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer and a senior vice-president, “caused the Barbados Company’s majority shareholder, the Bermuda Company, to make bribe payments” to Mr Inniss in 2015 and 2016.

According to the Gazette, BF&M bought a majority share of ICBL from the government of Barbados for US$25.85 million in November 2005 and now owns a 51.7 per cent stake in the company through its wholly owned subsidiary, Hamilton Financial Ltd, which is based in St Lucia.

Mr Inniss, 52, was arrested on Friday in Florida and appeared in federal court in Tampa on Monday. He was released on a $50,000 bond.

Photo caption: ICBL managers in early 2016 (from Who's Who in Barbados Business 2016 edition)

Caption: three months before his arrest, Mr. Inniss had stood for re-election to the House of Assembly as the DLP candidate for St. James South. He was defeated by the BLP's Sandra Husbands (pictured).

Aug 7, 2018

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