BY GEORGE ALLEYNE
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Photo by George Alleyne
Donville Inniss, a former senior minister in the government of Barbados just 20 months ago was Thursday found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of money laundering.
When Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the Eastern District Federal Court in New York pronounced the verdict on all three counts for which he was charged, Inniss became etched in the history of Barbados for being the first of the island’s citizens to serve in the high office of a cabinet minister to be convicted of a crime in the United States.
Since 2018 Inniss, a former minister of the last administration that was voted out of office that same year had been arrested in Miami where he has a home and resides as a US permanent resident, taken to New York to answer the three-count charge, and had an electronic bracelet placed on his ankle with instructions not to leave the state, pending trial.
Along with the count of conspiracy, he was charged with laundering $16,536.73 in 2015, and $20,000 the following year and having them pass through a fronting bank account in the US then onto his private account.
The prosecution contended that the money was received as bribes from an insurance company for Inniss to direct a state-owned company under his ministerial portfolio to increase the percentage of coverage invested in the private company.
Hearing of the case began Monday, with the presentation of evidence concluding in two days; the court taking a day off owing to the absence of a juror; the prosecution and defence making their summation Thursday; and the jury taking fewer than two hours to convict the man who many in Barbados saw as a future leader of his Democratic Labour Party and perhaps one day becoming the island’s prime minister.
Inniss now remains on bail with the pre-existing conditions until both prosecution and defence make submissions and counter-submissions, which may drag on to late February before sentencing.
Inniss’ lead defence lawyer, Anthony L. Ricco, later told members of Barbados’ media covering the trial that he intends to appeal contending that there was insufficient evidence to convict the former rising star in the island’s politics.
“The guilty verdict didn’t come as a surprise to me. It is very difficult for a person from a foreign country. The idea of bringing someone from a foreign country and trying him or her in a US court makes it very difficult for American jurors to judge behaviour when they aren’t aware of the system and the culture [of the country],” Barbados’ Nation newspapers Ricco saying.
“The government hasn’t proven the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. … The government hasn’t proven its case.”