Four little words that spell prison
It was a four-word text that probably took only a few seconds to write and send, but the events it set in motion led to a guilty verdict on all three counts for former minister of industry and commerce, Donville Inniss.
A U.S. jury on Thursday found Inniss guilty of two counts of money laundering stemming from two money transfers to the bank accounts of a dental office in New York and one count of conspiracy to money launder. Prosecutors said Inniss arranged for the money to be transferred through the bank accounts to conceal the bribes.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Anthony Ricco, a lawyer for Inniss, didn’t dispute the money transfers, but argued the government’s evidence didn’t support its view that there had been bribes in 2015 and 2016.
According to the Nation newspaper’s Maria Bradshaw, U.S. Prosecutor David Gopstein, in his summation to the jury, said that Inniss was not performing consulting services for ICBL, but was taking bribes and laundering money.
The prosecutor said that up to 2014, ICBL held 50 per cent of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s (BIDC) insurance contract, while Consumer’s Guarantee Insurance had 30 per cent and Trident Insurance 20 per cent.
When the time came for renewal in 2015, the BIDC board of directors recommended that the contract continued to be split in the same way, but on June 30, 2015, Alex Tasker, who was at the time the senior vice-president of ICBL, sent Inniss a text message saying: “We have to talk.”
This four-word message, the prosecutor told the jury, led to the bribery, which was arranged in a week and a half. The day after that text message, Mr. Inniss sent a letter to Sonja Trotman, chief executive officer of BIDC, inquiring about the insurance renewal.
As a result, ICBL increased its share to 70 per cent share, leaving CGI with 30 percent, and Trident Insurance with zero.
The Wall Street Journal said that ICBL, which allegedly paid the bribes, "received a publicized letter in 2018 from the U.S. Justice Department saying it was closing a probe into whether the company had violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
That letter said, in part, that "The Department's investigation found that ICBL, through its employees and agents, paid approximately $36,000 in bribes to a Barbadian government official in exchange for insurance contracts resulting in approximately $686,827.50 in total premiums for the contracts and approximately $93,940.19 in net profits."
The WSJ’s Dylan Tokur wrote in Friday’s edition that “ICBL had voluntarily disclosed the bribes, enhanced its compliance program and fired the individuals involved in the misconduct, the Justice Department said.”
He added that the Justice Department had sent the letter to ICBL under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s Corporate Enforcement Policy, which, he said, “offers leniency to companies that disclose potential foreign bribery violations to prosecutors.”
This means that Donville, Ingrid and Alex had their conspiracy exposed by the parent of the company on whose behalf the latter two were working to increase sales, or at least make budget.
Isn’t it ironic?
It is also a different version of how the story got out than what our own attorney-general said last Thursday after the verdict was handed down. He said: “It is significant that the conviction came about because individuals who had knowledge of the events were prepared to speak out and to give evidence about wrongdoing.”
The A-G added: “This is something that is required at all levels in Barbados’ society whether dealing with the scourge of corruption or the scourge of gun violence.”
Meantime, Mr. Tokar noted that the Justice Department last year charged ICBL’s former chief executive officer, Ingrid Innes, and its former senior vice president, Alex Tasker, “who prosecutors said acted as Mr. Inniss’ co-conspirators. The two remain at large, a spokesman for the department said.”
As far as I can see, the response in Barbados among the average citizen has been that it’s about time somebody was charged for all of the perceived corruption that went on under the last administration. I haven’t personally heard much, if any, sympathy for Inniss nor his alleged co-conspirators.
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