Canadian investor and owner of Dream Casino in Dominican Republic ordered released from prison in connection with spurious charges

By Christine Duhaime | January 7th, 2017

Canadian ordered released

According to news reports in the Dominican Republic, Toronto resident Antonio Carbone, who has been incarcerated in the Dominican Republic for almost two years without a trial after being charged with attempted murder, was ordered released from jail. Mr. Carbone is a well-known investor in the Dominican Republic and co-owns Dream Corporation, which is the largest chain of casinos in that country.

Despite the order for his release, has not yet been released and his lawyer in the Dominican Republic originally said that he suspects he will never get out. His lawyer said he is in fear of his life.

Mr. Carbone received worldwide attention when in 2013, Canadian billionaire Michael DeGroot sued a number defendants connected to Dream Corporation, including the Carbones and two Canadians named Edward Kremblewski and Andrew Pajak, to recover over US$111 million he said he lent to the Dream Corporation to invest in casinos in the Dominican Republic.

The DeGroot lawsuit has not been pursued in any vigorous manner since 2013, but at a preliminary hearing, an Ontario Supreme Court Justice found that there was a prima facie case of fraud against the defendants, and a Court-appointed receiver found numerous instances of the missing funds, numerous failures to report to Mr. DeGroot and that over $21 million of DeGroot’s money had simply disappeared into thin air.

Background

The background of why a foreign country is detaining a Canadian without due process of law is a complicated one.

Mr. Carbone was arrested in January 2015, in the Dominican Republic for the alleged attempted murder of an employee of one of the Dream Corporation casinos named Fernando Baez Guerrero.

According to a sworn statement given by Baez, sometime during the evening of December 1, 2014, Mr. Carbone allegedly attempted to kill him by throwing a bomb in his car while he was getting out of that car. There was, he deposed in his sworn statement, and as he explained dramatically on TV, “an explosion and then … flames” and he allegedly narrowly escaped with his life.

According to media reports, Baez seems to live a lavish life for a casino employee, driving around the impoverished island in not one, but two imported exotic cars – a Rolls Royce and a classic Jaguar. Shortly after making his dramatic statements about his alleged brush with death and escaping a car bomb explosion with not a scratch on him, Baez told Canadian reporters that he received a payment of $500,000.

He went on to maintain that such a large payment to him, a mere employee, was not connected to a voice recording in which he was heard discussing a payment of precisely $500,000, payable to him forthwith if he were to join “the team” as against Mr. Carbone, his boss. It’s unclear what “team” he meant – he was already employed by Dream Corporation and like all its employees, owed a duty of loyalty in law to the corporate entity.

In an incredible investigation, the CBC and the Globe & Mail found that Baez and another person, who was the chief witness, subsequently changed their story in a material way to the prosecutor in the Dominican Republic about the alleged car bombing.

Based on their own sets of contradicting statements, they lied.

Baez subsequently admitted the following:

  • He was not in any car that exploded, as he had previously sworn;
  • He was not in any car where a bomb was thrown in, as he had previously sworn;
  • The car that was allegedly damaged was not the car he drove that day, as he had previously sworn; and
  • When the alleged bomb allegedly blew up his car, he was in the penthouse suite of an apartment building (ergo, he was nowhere near the car and was not in danger of his life, as he had previously sworn).

The second witness, also an employee of Dream Corporation, seems to have a criminal record. He originally deposed that he had heard Mr. Carbone plotting to kill Baez on December 1, 2014, and that after the alleged car bomb, he was with Mr. Carbone when he allegedly celebrated the alleged attempted murder which Baez now says didn’t happen.

But, and here is where it gets interesting, it turns out that Mr. Carbone was not in the Dominican Republic on December 1, 2014. The Canadian government produced evidence from CBSA of his travel entrants to Canada. When informed of that fact, the  second witness subsequently recanted his story to say he never heard Mr. Carbone plotting to kill Baez at all and was not with him on December 1, 2014, as he had alleged, celebrating an alleged murder attempt that didn’t happen.

Not possible to establish elements of offence in a normal country 

In criminal law, the Dominican Republic has to prove the elements of the offence of attempted murder to convict Mr. Carbone, namely:

  • Mr. Carbone formed the mental intent to kill Baez (not possible to prove since the second witness recanted his evidence about allegedly hearing Mr. Carbone plotting to do so);
  • Mr. Carbone was in the Dominican Republic on December 1, 2014 (not possible to prove since Canada has records that go a long was to establishing the opposite unless evidence is produced to establish that he was in the Dominican Republic on December 1, 2014);
  • Baez was in his Jaguar when a car bomb was thrown in it (not possible to prove because Baez recanted his evidence on this point);
  • Baez was injured by the alleged car bomb (not possible to prove because Baez was not harmed and he recanted his evidence about being anywhere close to the alleged car when it allegedly blew up);
  • There was an attempt on the life of Mr. Baez (not possible to prove because Baez was in a penthouse suite nowhere near the alleged car bomb when it was allegedly detonated);
  • Mr. Carbone detonated the alleged car bomb in Baez’ car (not possible to prove because it is not possible for a civilian to detonate a bomb in the Dominican Republic remotely from Canada);
  • Mr. Carbone detonated the alleged car bomb in Baez’ car while Baez was getting out of it (not possible to prove for the reasons above); and
  • There was a car bomb that exploded in the car of Baez on December 1, 2014 (may be possible to prove there was a fire in the car of Baez, but not a car bomb).

The prosecutor will have to show a motive as well and that may be difficult, given that Baez was just an employee of one casino who did not have a material role in operations.

The pictures below illustrate the debris that flies out from the force of a car bomb, usually killing or seriously injuring people. If Baez was getting out of his car, as he alleged when it exploded, he would have been killed by flying debris, or at the very least, would have sustained very serious injuries requiring hospitalization.

Incredulous set of alleged facts must be proven

The statements of the witnesses are not internally consistent, are not consistent with each other and are not consistent with other evidence. The following is how the prosecutor must describe the events on December 1, 2014, in Court, based on the witnesses’ sworn statements:

  • It is the end of the work day in the Dominican Republic on December 1, 2014;
  • Mr. Baez leaves the casino;
  • His boss, Mr. Carbone, is at the casino;
  • When he sees Baez leave, Mr. Carbone goes to his car and follows Baez by car from the casino to Baez’ gated community;
  • Mr. Carbone manages to gain access to the gated community where Baez lives;
  • Baez parks his car;
  • Mr. Carbone parks his car;
  • Mr. Carbone goes over to the Baez car and stands there holding a car bomb that could explode at any moment in his hand;
  • Baez steps out of the car;
  • Mr. Carbone tosses the bomb through the open rear window of the car;
  • The bomb immediately explodes in back of Baez’ car with a loud noise and the car is immediately engulfed in flames;
  • Pressure from the bomb sends glass and metal debris flying in all directions;
  • Baez is not thrown to the ground or in any way injured from the exploding car bomb;
  • Baez narrowly escapes death;
  • Baez calls 911 and never speaks to Mr. Carbone who is apparently right beside him;
  • Mr. Carbone is not injured from the exploding car bomb;
  • The police arrive;
  • The police don’t arrest Mr. Carbone;
  • Mr. Carbone gets in his car and drives out of the gated complex;
  • Mr. Carbone drives back to the casino;
  • Mr. Carbone encounters the second witness at the casino;
  • Mr. Carbone apparently celebrates the death or the attempted death of Baez with the second witness; and
  • Mr. Carbone is arrested 55 days later in the Dominican Republic for the attempted murder of Baez.

The prosecutor will no doubt pursue this case anyway because it is, after all, the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic is ranked year after year as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and its corruption is systemic involving the private and public sector, as well as the judiciary, according to this report. The prosecutor in this particular case, a person whose name is Yeni Reynoso, has gone on the record as saying that her police force engages in contract killings. Its also unclear how come the Dominican Republic is motivated to pursue a criminal case against a foreign investor on inconsistent facts, because it will scare away investment from other countries.

Other interesting facts

There are other interesting aspects to this story.

  • In this article, the Carbone brothers allege that the current Canadian management of Dream casinos showed up at the office in the Dominican Republic and stole everything in it, including millions in cash and an email server with evidence that the Court-appointed receiver was searching for, both in Ontario and in the Dominican Republic.
  • News reports say that police in Canada are investigating whether the casino operations in the Dominican Republic are being used to launder funds for the Mafia in Canada.
  • This report says that the Mafia infiltrated the operations of Dream casinos, consistent with the investigation by the Globe & Mail where the CFO of Dream casinos in the Dominican Republic, Kremblewski, a Canadian, confirmed that a member of the Montreal Mafia identified by the Charbonneau Commission as such was working with him at the casinos.
  • Several months after the Mafia Godfather, Vito Rizzuto, and another alleged member of the Montreal Mafia arrived at Dream casinos, Mr. Pajak testified that Kremblewski gave him numerous records related to cash, and testified that, presumably by Kremblewski, cash is taken from casinos in the Dominican Republic and brought to Canada.

You can read our summary of the Globe & Mail and CBC investigations from 2015 here.

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