By Gerald V. Paul
A Canadian businessman involved in a $112-million investment in Caribbean casinos is in jail in the Dominican Republic, charged in a plot against the life of a local lawyer who was also involved in the casino, according to sources there.
Antonio Carbone of Woodbridge, Ontario, was arrested at the airport in Punta Cana recently as he waited for a return flight to Canada.
The problems at the Dream casino have an impact beyond the owners and investors, leaving hundreds of jobs in jeopardy and paycheques in limbo. The country’s president, Danilo Medina Sanchez, has reportedly ordered an investigation at senior levels.
The problems started when Carbone and his brother Francesco were in a dispute with Canadian billionaire Michael DeGroote, 81, over the large casino venture that went wrong, leaving in the aftermath accusations of Mafia exploitation, death threats and fraud.
The Dominican Republic’s prosecutor’s office said both Carbone brothers were detained, questioned and arrested. After a court appearance, they were transferred to La Victoria National Penitentiary in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital.
Media in the Dominican Republic is reporting that only Antonio Carbone has been ordered held for a year in preventative detention, a form of pre-trial incarceration.
The alleged victim of a car bomb plot was Fernando Arturo Baez Guerrero, a Dominican lawyer working as an administrator for Dream Corporation Inc., the troubled casino firm.
Baez Guerrero was saved when he changed his daily routine, reports say. Usually, he stays a few minutes in his Jaguar car gathering his things but on Dec. 1, he climbed out promptly. The car exploded immediately after he got out, according to media reports.
Police said that in a sworn statement, Baez Guerrero named Carbone and another man, Jorge Andres Kan Lijtenstein, in the bomb plot. Kan Lijtenstein was arrested in 2013 when found with two AK-47 machine-guns and two pistols, media reports say.
The account could not be independently confirmed and none of the accusations have been tested in court.
Meanwhile, the Carbone brothers are fighting in court in Canada with their former partners over a $112-million investment in their casino plans by DeGroote.
DeGroote, an Order of Canada recipient and wealthy philanthropist, fronted the money in installments starting in 2011 to the Dream casino company, run by the Carbones who jointly held 85% and Andrew Pajak who owned 15%.
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the arrest.
“Consular services are being provided to the Canadian citizen who has been detained in Dominican Republic. Consular officials are in contact with local authorizes,” according to ministry spokesman Nicolas Doire.
Human rights groups have criticized La Victoria prison, the country’s largest, for extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.