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French Citizen Jailed For FCPA Offenses

Former Alcatel executive Christian Sapsizian, 62, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and forfeiture of $261,500 for bribing employees of the state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica. Sapsizian had pleaded guilty in June 2007 to two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Under his guilty plea, he faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and $330,000 in forfeiture.

Sapsizian, a French citizen, was a 20-year Alcatel employee and served as the company’s deputy vice president for Latin America. In August 2001, Alcatel received a $149 million cellular network contract from Costa Rica’s El Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE). Sapsizian had promised to pay an ICE board member and other officials up to 2 percent of the value of the contract. Before being fired in 2004, he caused Alcatel to wire $14 million in “commission” payments to a consultant, who then transferred $2.5 million to the ICE official.

Sapsizian admitted to conspiring with Edgar Valverde Acosta, a citizen of Costa Rica who was Alcatel’s senior country officer there, to arrange the bribes. Acosta was indicted with Sapsizian and on June 14, 2007, the federal court in Miami transferred him to fugitive status.

Alcatel learned in October 2004 that Costa Rican authorities were investigating payments from its consultants to government officials, political parties, and officials of ICE. The company’s internal investigation led to the firing of employees and consultants who were involved and its self-disclosure to the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Until late 2006, when it merged with Lucent, Alcatel was a French company with American depositary receipts traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s now called Alcatel-Lucent.

The Justice Department said an ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also said it received help from Costa Rican and French law enforcement authorities.

View the DOJ’s September 23, 2008 release here.

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