Former Barbadian Official Arrested, Charged with Laundering Bribes

On August 6, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Donville Inniss, a former Member of the Barbados Parliament and Minister of Industry, was arrested on August 3 and had his initial court appearance on August 6, in connection with an indictment charging him with laundering bribes that he allegedly received from a Barbadian insurance company in exchange for official actions that he took to secure government contracts for the insurance company.   The indictment, returned on March 15 under seal in the Eastern District of New York, charges Inniss with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering.

The Justice Department press release summarized the indictment’s allegations as follows:

[I]n 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 U.S. bank account in the name of a dental company, which had an address in Elmont, New York.

At this early stage, the most interesting aspect of the case is the theory of prosecution.  If, as can be surmised from the Justice Department press release, Inniss received the funds in Barbados from the Barbadian insurance company, neither the relevant language of the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) nor the guidance in the Justice Department’s and Securities and Exchange Commission’s FCPA Resource Guide would appear to bring Inniss’s receipt of the bribes within the scope of the FCPA.

Inniss’s alleged transfer of the bribe money through a U.S. bank account, however, is another matter under the federal money laundering offenses, 18 U.S.C. §§1956 and 1957.  Among other possibilities, subsection 1956(a)(1)(A) of Title 18 makes it a felony for a person, knowing “that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, [to] conduc[t] or attemp[t] to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity     . . . (i) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity.”  Subsection 1956(c)(1) specifically defines the phrase “knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity” to mean “that the person knew the property involved in the transaction represented proceeds from some form, though not necessarily which form, of activity that constitutes a felony under State, Federal, or foreign law, regardless of whether or not such activity is specified in paragraph (7)[of subsection 1956(c)].”  (Emphasis supplied)  Subsection 33(2) of Barbados’s Prevention of Corruption Act 2012-31 certainly criminalizes bribery of a public official, and  subsection 1956(c)(7)(B) of Title 18 defines “specified unlawful activity” to include “bribery of a public official” without reference to any particular federal  or foreignoffense.

The Department of Justice has used this approach successfully in other cases involving defendants who laundered in the United States the proceeds of a crime that was completed or consummated outside the United States.  As one example, in United States v. Molina, the Department successfully prosecuted a defendant who assisted a Brazilian-based securities- and telemarketing-fraud scheme by laundering through U.S. bank accounts the payments that fraud victims made to the scheme (mostly through bank accounts in Miami).  See United States v. Molina, 2011 WL 445650 (11th Cir., Feb. 9, 2011) (per curiam) (unpublished decision).

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