Antonio Carbone, the Canadian casino mogul embroiled in a lawsuit with noted philanthropist Michael DeGroote, is currently being held in a Dominican Republic prison on a charge of attempted murder.

However, a fifth estate investigation has found that the case against him is largely based on information that a key witness and the alleged victim himself now contradict.

Carbone, 40, is accused of attempted murder in the firebombing of a rival's 1999 Jaguar Vanden Plas in the early hours of Dec. 1 , and is being held in preventive custody in the San Pedro prison, 100 kilometres west of Punta Cana.

The fifth estate has learned that key details of the Santo Domingo district attorney's case against Carbone appear to be based on some factual errors, and are contradicted by other evidence and what a key witness is now saying, all of which raise questions about the strength of the case against the Toronto-area businessman.


Watch 'The Carbone Brothers' on Friday Feb. 13 on CBC Television's the fifth estate at 9 p.m. 


Carbone, a controversial figure, has been interviewed in recent months by CBC and the Globe and Mail as part of a year-long investigation into the debacle surrounding the Dream Casino group in the Caribbean, a business venture that resulted in a series of multi-million dollar suits and countersuits among those involved.

A fifth estate documentary, The mob and Michael DeGroote, which aired Jan. 23,  examined how DeGroote, a highly regarded Canadian billionaire and philanthropist, lent Carbone, his brother Francesco and a third participant, nearly $112 million for their venture; and how organized crime figures became embroiled in the dispute, leading to threats of revenge and murder by some of those involved.

Carbone was on his way back to Toronto to celebrate his 40th birthday when he was arrested by Dominican National Police on Jan. 25 at the Punta Cana airport.

In a prison interview, Carbone told the fifth estate he was innocent of the allegations, and that he is the victim of a campaign to discredit him.

His brother, Francesco Carbone, who was also named in the arrest warrants, also denies any involvement. He was already back in Canada when his brother was taken into custody.

A judge approved district attorney Yeni Berenice Reynoso's detention request for Carbone, based largely on a 10-page record of the case filed in a Santo Domingo court.

Firebombing

At issue is who was behind the 2 a.m. firebombing on Dec. 1 of a 1999 Jaguar belonging to a Dream Casino manager Fernando Baez, with whom the Carbone brothers had had a falling out.

The chief witness in the case is a private investigator, Juan Infante, who once worked for the Carbone brothers.  

According to a document filed in court by the district attorney, Infante heard the brothers plotting to murder Baez and that they had allegedly hired two unknown assailants to do the job.

Dream casinos interior

The Canadian-owned Dream Casinos chain started up in 2011. By the next year, its sole investor was suing, alleging fraud. (CBC)

Yet Infante told the fifth estate that he never discussed a murder plot with the brothers nor did he ever hear them plotting an attack.

The court submission also alleges that Infante and others scouted out the location for where they planned to murder Baez.

Infante, however, told the fifth estate that while he did drive by Baez's residence, no one discussed anything about murder.  

He explained that he drove by Baez's apartment in his role as a private investigator seeking to repossess a Dream Casino vehicle.

The district attorney's document also claims Infante heard the Carbone brothers celebrating their role in the firebombing.   

But Infante told the fifth estate a different story. While he claims the brothers  celebrated the news of the firebombing the evening after it happened, they never admitted they were behind it.

For his part, Antonio Carbone maintains he was back in Canada on the evening of Dec. 1 — the time Infante claims to have heard him and his brother celebrating the firebombing.

Firebombing

Fernando Baez's 1999 Jaguar Vanden Plas was firebombed the morning of Dec. 1, 2014. The Carbone brothers are the accused of being behind the attack.

The Carbones have provided the fifth estate with a WestJet letter that shows Antonio Carbone leaving the Dominican Republic on Nov. 28 and returning back there from Toronto on Dec. 2, a day after Infante claims he heard the Carbone brothers celebrating.

When asked about this contradiction, Infante said he might have his dates wrong

"Well, that's (for) the court to decide… We (had) the conversation. I don't know if it was the second, or was the first or was the third. That was after the car bombing."

Perhaps the biggest hole in the accusations of attempted murder comes from the alleged victim, Fernando Baez.

In a statement provided to the district attorney dated Jan. 27, Baez claimed he narrowly escaped from the Jaguar before it was firebombed and that he was alive only by chance.

Yet Baez told the fifth estate a far different story about what happened the night of the firebombing.

Baez now says he was driving a different vehicle — not the Jaguar — when he came home from work that day, and that he was already up in his penthouse apartment when he heard an explosion.

District attorney Reynoso declined to comment on the fifth estate findings, except to say that her case was based on evidence collected in the investigation.

Despite the contradictory evidence against his client, Antonio Carbone’s lawyer, Jose Garcia, said he is not optimistic that his client will get out of prison any time soon.

"I think he'll never leave," he said, "that is the plan."

He blames the situation on what he sees as a corruptible justice system in the Dominican Republic.

Seen as loyal

Baez was initially seen as a loyal senior manager for the Carbones when a fight for control of the company broke out in mid-2013 between the brothers and their minority shareholder, company president Andrew Pajak of Toronto.

In a sworn statement filed in October 2013 in an Ontario court, as part of the sprawling litigation over Dream Casinos, Antonio Carbone says Baez disclosed that he had been offered "half a million" to switch sides and help the Carbones' rivals.

An apparent tape of that call, obtained by CBC News, records Baez telling Antonio Carbone, "They had half a million cash for me… to be added to the team."

Baez told the fifth estate that he eventually did receive $500,000 but that it had nothing to do with changing sides; rather, he said, the money was used to pay for business expenses.

This is not the first time one of the Carbone brothers has been accused of being involved in a murder plot.   

Francesco Carbone

Police accused Francesco Carbone of counselling the murder of his business partner, but the Crown dropped the charge with no explanation, and limited disclosure of any evidence, 3½ months later. (CBC)

In August 2013, Francesco Carbone was charged in Toronto with counselling a mob-linked gangster to murder Dream Casino president Pajak.    

An audio tape provided to the fifth estate appears to show Carbone discussing key details of the alleged plot. The charges were eventually dropped after a key witness left the country.  

Francesco Carbone is now suing Toronto police for wrongful arrest.


with files from Chelsea Gomez. If you have more information on this story please contact Harvey.Cashore@cbc.ca or by phone at 416-526-4704