fifth·CBC Investigates

Canadian casino mogul sentenced to 20 years in a Dominican Republic prison for attempted murder

Antonio Carbone, a Toronto-area casino executive, was found guilty by a three judge panel (2-1) in the Dominican Republic on Aug. 26 after being convicted of attempted murder.

Antonio Carbone, a Toronto-area casino executive, was found guilty in 2014 firebombing of a rival's Jaguar

Antonio Carbone was found guilty of attempted murder in the firebombing of a rival's 1999 Jaguar Vanden Plas in the early hours of Dec. 1, 2014. (CBC)

A controversial Canadian businessman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in the Dominican Republic after being convicted of attempted murder.

Antonio Carbone, a Toronto-area casino executive, was found guilty by a three judge panel (2-1) in the Dominican Republic on Aug. 26.

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Along with his brother Francesco, Carbone is one of the founders of the Dream Casino group — a multi-million dollar Caribbean venture that has resulted in a series of lawsuits and countersuits revolving around the ownership and control of the company.

CBC News spoke with Carbone in an exclusive interview before he was convicted.  He had been locked up in preventive custody for over two years while he awaited trial.

Antonio Carbone sits down for an exclusive interview with CBC News in a Dominican Republic jail. (CBC)

Carbone stands by unfair detention

Carbone asserted that he had been unfairly detained and that there was a massive conspiracy to keep him behind bars. "You can see the amount, or the effect of abuse of power that's been involved. Since day one," he told CBC News.

He noted that the former lead investigator in his case, Isidro Vasquez Pena, was arrested and charged with soliciting a $125,000 bribe in another case. And the judge who originally sentenced Carbone to a year of preventative custody, Margarita Cristo, was recently removed from her position for corruption.

At issue in the attempted murder case is the car bombing of a Jaguar belonging to a Dream Casino manager Fernando Baez, with whom the Carbones' had a falling out, on Dec. 1, 2014. Carbone was arrested for it in January 2015.

An issue in the attempted murder case is the car bombing of a Jaguar belonging to a Dream Casino manager Fernando Baez, with whom the Carbones brother's had a falling out with in 2014. (CBC)

Serious questions of credibility

But there are serious questions of credibility relating to the evidence against him.  Perhaps the biggest hole in the accusations comes from the would-be victim, Baez. He originally said in a statement to the district attorney that he narrowly escaped the blast and was alive only by chance.

Yet Baez subsequently told CBC's The Fifth Estate 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.

Carbone blames his continued detention on Baez and what he says is a plan to remove him and his brother from the Dream Casino project.

"This was all a plot, scheme to defraud the Carbones from day one of their assets," he said. "Dream was estimated at $540 million so we're talking about the largest … conspiracy in the Dominican Republic."

Issues continue in Canada

Carbone is currently being sued in Canada for allegedly defrauding a Dream Casino investor of around $100 million. He is also facing fraud charges in the Dominican Republic for allegedly trying to manipulate shares of the company in his favour.  He denies both allegations. He is also appealing his conviction on the attempted murder charge.

Meanwhile, the Chief Financial Officer of Dream Corporation, Ed Kremblewski, who was a minor witness in the attempted murder case against Carbone, has been the target of violent threats.

Ed Kremblewski outside of the Dream Corporation offices in Santo Domingo (2014). He and his family were the target of death threats and a drive-by shooting. (CBC)

In August 2016, before Antonio's conviction, a bullet was fired inside his Toronto home while his family was present.  This came around the same time he and his sons were receiving threatening phone calls.  

A Toronto-area man, Michael Raso, has been charged in relation to the shooting and the death threats.

In a civil lawsuit against Michael Raso, his father Gennaro Raso — who was the head of the now defunct Loners Motorcycle Gang — and Francesco Carbone, Kremblewski claims that his family would face maiming and death if the charges against Antonio were not dropped.  And that his son would be shot in the head, his daughter would be maimed and killed and that his elderly parents would be assaulted and killed.

In the lawsuit, Kremblewski alleges Francesco Carbone is behind the intimidation campaign carried out by the Rasos and that Francesco Carbone even provided $18,000 in cash to Michael Raso to bribe a Dominican judicial official in an attempt to have his brother Antonio released on bail.  The claims in the lawsuit against the Rasos and Francesco Carbone remain unproven.  

Francesco Carbone did not respond to CBC News' request for comment. In court documents, Gennaro Raso denied all allegations against him.    

Carbone denies connection to the shooting 

In his interview with CBC News, Antonio Carbone denied he or his brother Francesco had any connection to the shooting "It's impossible that I could've taken a shot at his house because I've been kidnapped or illegally imprisoned and kidnapped in the Dominican Republic. So it's impossible that I had anything to do with it. And I doubt very highly that my brother would have anything to do with it. And if he did, I figure by now the resources the Canadian officials had would've arrested him for such a crime."

Facing 20 years in a Dominican prison and having lost control of his business, Carbone says he regrets ever getting involved in Dream Casino.

Francesco Carbone, left, and his brother, Antonio, of Vaughan, Ont., (2014) are the majority shareholders and co-founders of Dream Corp., which owns a network of gambling facilities in the Dominican Republic. (CBC)

 "The biggest mistake of my life was to Dream...what I thought was important is not important because every entrepreneur thinks it's all about the money. And the power and the fame. But that's not what life's about."

And while Ed Kremblewski says his family fears to even be in their own home after the drive-by shooting he believes was orchestrated on Antonio Carbone's behalf, now convicted of attempted murder, Carbone laments that he hasn't seen his family in almost three years, and says he fears for their safety if they were to visit the Dominican Republic.

"It breaks my heart. They haven't been able to come to the country," he said. "I could not expose them to come here and being exposed to... possible violence or death attempts on their lives."

For the full investigation watch The Fifth Estate tonight on CBC Television at 9 p.m.

With files from CBC's Terence McKenna