By Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA — The former minister of industry of Barbados was arrested in Florida on Friday and had his initial court appearance on Monday in connection with an indictment charging him with laundering bribes that he allegedly received from a Barbadian insurance company in exchange for official actions he took to secure government contracts for the insurance company.
Donville Inniss, 52, a US legal permanent resident who resided in Tampa, Florida, and Barbados, 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.
“Donville Inniss allegedly used the US financial system to launder bribes he received while serving as a government official in Barbados,” said assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski. “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.”
“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,” said US Attorney Richard Donoghue. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable corrupt government officials here or abroad who use the US financial system to facilitate their criminal conduct.”
The indictment alleges that in 2015 and 2016, Inniss took part in a scheme to launder into the United States approximately $36,000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of a Barbadian insurance company. At the time, Inniss was a member of the Parliament of Barbados and the minister of industry, international business, commerce, and small business development of Barbados.
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 US bank account in the name of a dental company, which had an address in New York.
Inniss, a former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) parliamentarian, lost his St James South seat in the May 24 general election in Barbados.
Last month he expressed disappointment in some of his colleagues for sitting back and keeping quiet when negative reports about the former DLP administration are put in the public space.
“We have to get out there and defend our decisions. Any decision that I took as minister of industry, international business, commerce and small business development I am prepared to defend. Anytime the Barbados Labour Party comes after me with anything in my ministry I ain’t letting it drop, I will get out there and nip it in the bud,” he said.
It is not known if he was expecting the US Department of Justice to come after him with anything or if he expects to be able to “nip it in the bud”.
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.