The Justice Department announced on Monday the indictment of five people — including two Florida executives, a Florida-based agent, and two former Haitian telco officials — for their roles in a bribery scheme. The executives and agent were charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other laws; the former Haitian telco officials were charged with money laundering.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials, including employees of state-owned businesses such as the Haitian telco. Foreign officials, however, can’t be punished under the FCPA and in the past haven’t been included in indictments involving FCPA offenses. In this case, the DOJ could bring money-laundering counts against the former Haitian officials because they also live in Florida and committed the alleged offenses while there. The charges against them will put other foreign bribe-takers on notice of the DOJ’s ever more aggressive anti-corruption strategy.
The DOJ said the Florida executives are Joel Esquenazi, 53, of Miami, president of a Florida company identified in the indictment as privately-held “Company X,” and Carlos Rodriguez, 53, the former executive vice president of the company. They were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering. Both are U.S. citizens.
The two Haitian foreign officials are Robert Antoine, 61, of Miami and Haiti, a former director of international relations at Haiti’s state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti. He’s charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Jean Rene Duperval, 43, of Miramar, Florida and Haiti, is also a former director of international relations at Telecommunications D’Haiti. He’s charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
The fifth person charged is Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison, 40, also of Miramar. She was the president of Telecom Consulting Services Corp., an intermediary for the alleged bribe payments. She’s charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, seven substantive FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering. She’s a permanent resident of the U.S.
The Justice Department said the indictment was unsealed on Monday after Duperval’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Miami. He was arrested in Haiti on December 5 by a special unit of the Haitian National Police. The DOJ didn’t describe the legal means used to bring Duperval from Haiti to the U.S. to face the charges. Rodriguez and Grandison also appeared in court on Monday in Miami. Arrest warrants have been issued for Antoine and Esquenazi, who apparently are at large.
According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from November 2001 through March 2005, when the Florida telco, Company X, paid more than $800,000 to shell companies for bribes to officials of Telecommunications D’Haiti.
The indictment alleges that Marguerite Grandison’s company, Telecom Consulting Services Corp., executed a series of contracts with Telecommunications D’Haiti that allowed the Florida telco’s customers to place telephone calls to Haiti. The alleged corrupt payments were authorized by Esquenaz and Rodriguez. The purpose of the bribes, according to the indictment, was to obtain preferred rates, reduce the number of minutes for which payment was owed, and give other discounts, as well as to defraud Haiti of revenue. The defendants allegedly concealed the bribes using shell companies and false records showing the payments were for “consulting services.”
The FCPA conspiracy and wire fraud counts carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The substantive FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The indictment also contains a criminal forfeiture count.
In April 2009, Antonio Perez, the former controller of Marguerite Grandison’s company, Telecom Consulting Services Corp., pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA and money laundering for his role in the payment of bribes to former officials of Telecommunications D’Haiti. In May 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, a shell intermediary company, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunication companies. He also admitted laundering the money for a former Haitian government official. Diaz is scheduled to be sentenced on January 29, 2010. Perez was scheduled to be sentenced on October 6, 2009. He has not been sentenced and no new sentencing date has been reported. See our post here.
Also in Apri this year, Latin Node Inc., a privately held Florida corporation in the telecommunications business, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with improper payments in Honduras and Yemen. Latinode agreed to pay a $2 million fine and to cooperate with investigators in the U.S. and other countries.
As the Justice Department says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Download the DOJ’s December 7, 2009 release here.
Download a copy of the indictment in US v. Esquenazi et al here.