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Ex Head of State Jailed For Alcatel Bribes

The former president of Costa Rica who took bribes from French telecoms company Alcatel was sentenced to five years in prison this week.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez, 71, was convicted by a court in Costa Rica of accepting at least $800,000 in bribes from Alcatel, according to an AFP report.

Rodriguez was president of the Central American country from 1998 to 2002. He was Secretary General of the Organization of American States in 2004 when the Alcatel scandal forced him to resign.

In December last year, Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent S.A. paid $137 million in an FCPA settlement. The company admitted bribing officials in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, and Taiwan. In a  two-count criminal information, the DOJ charged the company and three subsidiaries with violating the internal controls and books and records provisions of the FCPA.

It paid $92 million to resolve criminal charges with the DOJ and $45 million in disgorgement to the SEC. The settlement ranks eighth on list of the biggest FCPA settlements of all time and sixth on the list of FCPA disgorgements.

Alcatel-Lucent — which provides telecommunications equipment and services — was formed in 2006 after U.S.-based Lucent Technologies merged with Alcatel, a French company. The new company is headquartered in Paris, France.

In Costa Rica, a subsidiary wired about $18 million to two consultants. More than half of the money, the DOJ said, was then passed to Costa Rican government officials. The bribes produced contracts worth more than $300 million for Alcatel-Lucent and a profit of more than $23 million.

In September 2008, former Alcatel executive Christian Sapsizian, 62, was 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. He had pleaded guilty in June 2007 to two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Sapsizian, a French citizen, was a 20-year Alcatel employee and served as the company’s deputy vice president for Latin America. 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 a government official in Costa Rica.

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 on June 14, 2007. He’s an FCPA fugitive and was last seen in Costa Rica.

Alcatel-Lucent also paid $10 million in January 2010 to settle corruption charges brought by the government of Costa Rica.

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