(Caribbean 360) Former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development in Barbados, Donville Inniss, has been indicted in the United States for allegedly laundering just over US$36,000 in bribes he received from an unnamed insurance company in his home country.
The three-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, charging Inniss, a member of the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government which was ousted in the May general elections, with conspiracy to launder money and money laundering. The charges stem from his acceptance of bribes from a Barbadian insurance company in 2015 and 2016 when he was a public official.
The 52-year-old Inniss, who was a legal permanent resident of the United States residing in Tampa, Florida and Barbados during the time of the charged conspiracy, was arrested last Friday and was arraigned today before US Magistrate Judge Julie Sneed in the Middle District of Florida at the federal courthouse in Tampa, a statement from the US Department of Justice said. He was released on a US$50,000 bond.
According to the indictment, between August 2015 and April 2016, Inniss engaged in a scheme to accept US$36,536.73 in bribes from high-level executives of an insurance company headquartered in Barbados and launder that money through the United States. The insurance company was not named, but the indictment stated that the identity of the company—which offered various financial products, including individual life, health and casualty insurance—is known to the grand jury.
In exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), over which he had responsibility, to renew two contracts with the insurance company. One contract was for US$16,536.73 and the other was US$20,000.
In furtherance of the scheme, the indictment stated, three Barbados company executives caused the company’s majority shareholder, an insurance company in Bermuda, to make bribe payments to Inniss through a US bank account in the name of the New York dental company, which had no actual business with the Barbados company. Executives of the insurance company transferred the funds to the dental company using an invoice falsely claiming that the payments were for consulting services.
A friend of Inniss, identified in the indictment as co-conspirator one, was the authorized representative of the New York dental company bank account.
“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,” stated United States Attorney Richard Donoghue. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable corrupt government officials here or abroad who use the U.S. financial system to facilitate their criminal conduct.”
Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Brian Benczkowski said Inniss allegedly used the US financial system to launder bribes he received while serving as a government official.
“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,” Benczkowski said.