BF&M-owned insurer involved in bribe claim

  • Money-laundering charges: Donville Inniss, a former industry minister in the government of Barbados

    Money-laundering charges: Donville Inniss, a former industry minister in the government of Barbados

A former minister in the government of Barbados has been criminally charged with laundering bribes allegedly received from a Barbadian insurance company, whose controlling shareholder is Bermudian insurer BF&M Ltd.

US prosecutors claim that Donville Inniss, a former industry minister and parliamentarian in the Caribbean country, accepted more than $36,000 in bribes from the Barbadian insurer in exchange for his help in landing Barbadian government contracts.

He is charged with conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering.

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

In an indictment unsealed by US federal court for the eastern district of New York, prosecutors do not name the Barbadian company, nor the Bermudian-based majority owner.

However, John Wight, chief executive officer of BF&M, confirmed to The Royal Gazette yesterday that the Barbadian insurer is the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Ltd (ICBL), in which BF&M has a majority interest.

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.

BF&M bought a majority share of ICBL from the government of Barbados for $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 Wight, who is chairman of ICBL, said: “In 2016 the board of directors of ICBL became aware of improper conduct by certain senior managers.

“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.”

In January 2017, ICBL announced that Ingrid Innes had resigned as the company’s CEO and had stepped down from its board of directors.

US prosecutors claim that as industry minister, Mr Inniss exercised authority over the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and that he used his official position to renew two separate insurance contracts with ICBL.

In exchange, ICBL executives of the Barbados company agreed to pay Mr Inniss a bribe of $16,536.73 in August 2015 and a second bribe of $20,000 in April 2016, prosecutors claim.

After the Barbados executives submitted false invoices, these sums were paid by the Bermudian company to the New York Dental Company’s account at a bank in Elmont, New York, according to the indictment.

The prosecutors state: “The Barbados Company employees, including Barbados Company Executives 1, 2 and 3, did not disclose to the Bermuda Company that the payments were for the benefit of a Barbadian government official and instead falsely claimed that the payments were for ‘[c]onsulting services’.”

The chief executive officer of the New York Dental Company is not named in the indictment, but is described as a friend of Mr Inniss and a co-conspirator.

In April 2016, after the second alleged bribe payment, the New York Dental Company made payments of $9,000, $8,000 and $2,750 to Mr Inniss, the indictment alleges.

Richard Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said: “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.

“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.”

• •It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

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