Inniss returns to court today
When Donville Inniss, a former cabinet minister, returns to a federal court in Brooklyn today, the presiding judge will hear where things stand with the fraud and money laundering case.
Federal prosecutors, Inniss and his attorney will bring Federal District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto up-to-date on the case in which Inniss is accused of accepting bribes in Barbados while he was Minister of International Business and then laundering the money in the United States.
“The appearance before Judge Matsumoto is a status conference to update the judge on the case,” said John Marzuelli, a spokesman for the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “This is not a trial. The parties, government and defendant will update the judge on the status of the case. There will be no witnesses or anything of the sort.”
In short, today’s hearing which is due to begin at noon, is not the beginning of a trial of the fraud and money laundering case which could land the one time high profile minister in a federal prison. If found guilty, he could also be sentenced to probation and ordered to perform community and be forced to forfeit property he may have acquired as a result of the alleged bribe.
When Inniss appeared in court in August, Sylvia Shweder, an assistant US attorney who is prosecuting the case against the former cabinet minister, told the judge that both sides had started negotiations but didn’t say to what end. However, the announcement triggered widespread speculation among law enforcement authorities and attorneys in New York that a plea deal was on the table. But Inniss’ attorney, Garnett Sullivan, has denied negotiating a plea bargain.
Asked after the hearing of a possible plea arrangement, Inniss said “my attorney has advised me not to comment and I fully accept his advice”.
When a similar question was raised with Shweder she said “we are in negotiation that’s all I am allowed to say. I can’t go beyond that”.
Today’s conference is expected to last about an hour.
Inniss, who also served as Minister of Health in the Freundel Stuart Administration before becoming Minister of International Business is accused of using the US financial system to launder bribes he allegedly received while serving as a government official in his birthplace.
“As charged in the indictment, Inniss abused his position of trust as a government official by taking bribes from a Barbados company, then laundering the illicit funds through a bank and a dental company located in the Eastern District of New York,” said US Attorney Richard F. Donaghue.
The federal indictment alleges Inniss, a resident of Barbados and Tampa Bay in Florida, took part in an illegal scheme to launder approximately $36 000 which he allegedly received from top executives of a Barbados insurance company. In exchange for the alleged bribes, “Inniss leveraged his position as a Minister of Industry to enable the Barbados insurance company to obtain two government contracts,” said prosecutors.
He has pleaded not guilty. (TB)