Within days of information on the arrest of a former government minister for allegedly conspiring for personal gain to have a state agency sign an insurance contract, Barbadians are hearing of another questionable pay-out by that nationally owned company.
Minister of Industry in the current administration Ronald Topping revealed Tuesday that former member of parliament for the past government, Michael Carrington caused the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) to pay him more than double the approved amount of legal fees for sale of a property that had belonged to the state.
BIDC is the state-owned company over which former government minister, Donville Inniss, held political responsibility when he was accused of causing it to sign a new million-dollar insurance contract in exchange payment to him of $36,000 by the private insurer.
The ex-government minister of industry, international business, commerce and small business development, whose political party suffered a humiliating defeat in the May 24 elections, losing all 30 parliamentary seats contested, faces charges in New York of conspiracy to launder money and money laundering.
The indictment, filed by the US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, on Aug. 6, alleges, “from in or about and between August 2015 and April 2016, the defendant Donville Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry and engaged in a scheme to accept approximately $36,000 in bribes from [a Barbados insurance company], in violation of Barbadian law, and to launder that money to and through the United States”.
Inniss who is to return to court on Aug. 23 was released on $50,000 bond and had an electronic monitoring bracelet strapped to his ankle because he is restricted from leaving the city.
Toppin, the current minister holding responsibility for BIDC in the new government revealed in parliament Tuesday that Carrington, an attorney and ex-speaker of that law-making body, had charged BIDC $353,225 for consultation on sale of a property valued at $16 million.
But Toppin said that the established rate for legal fees on a transaction of this value is $161,250, and hinted that the state-owned company was pressured into making the abnormally high payment to a then member of parliament who was part of the government of the time.
This information of an official of a government over-charging a state agency which it was elected to protect comes against the backdrop of a recent Barbados government document stating that BIDC, which was established to increase exports and employment through investment, has an outstanding debt of $19 million and accumulated arrears of $10.7 million.
The state corporation has had $$5.315 million approved in funding for the 2018-19 budget year.
News of the corruption charge against a minister in a former Barbados government and the apparent fleecing of this state entity comes weeks after attorney general of the new administration, Dale Marshall, warned of an intention to pursue and prosecute public officials suspected of corruption as far up the ladder as former government ministers.