The DOJ said Tuesday that Joel Esquenazi, 52, the former president of Terra Telecommunications Corp., was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the Haiti telco bribery case — the longest FCPA-related prison term in history.
Carlos Rodriguez, 55, the former executive vice president of Terra, was given an 84-month sentence.
U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez also ordered them to forfeit $3.09 million.
They were convicted by a jury in Miami in August of bribing officials at state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti S.A.M. The jury reached its verdict after five hours of deliberations following a two-and-a-half-week trial.
Esquenazi and Rodriguez had argued that officers and employees of state-owned enterprises aren’t ‘foreign officials’ under the FCPA. The judge denied their challenge.
The jury found them guilty of one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and wire fraud, seven substantive FCPA counts, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and 12 counts of money laundering.
Evidence at trial showed that Esquenzai and Rodriquez paid bribes and laundered money from 2001 through 2005. Their Miami-based company, Terra, paid more than $890,000 to shell companies that went to the Haiti telco officials. Terra was given favorable call rates in return for the bribes.
The DOJ’s Lanny Breuer said Esquenazi’s 15-year sentence – ‘the longest sentence ever imposed in an FCPA case – is a stark reminder to executives that bribing government officials to secure business advantages is a serious crime with serious consequences. . . . As today’s sentence shows, we will continue to hold accountable individuals and companies who engage in such corruption.’
* * *
Four other individuals have been convicted and sentenced for their roles in the Haiti telco case.
In 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at Terra, and Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. Last year Perez was sentenced to 24 months in prison and Diaz to 57 months. Both are now serving their jail terms.
In February last year, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty in the case to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribes. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Also last year, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Telco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted taking more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison, which he’s now serving.
Other defendants indicted in the case are Washington Vasconez Cruz, Amadeus Richers, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Patrick Joseph, Jean Rene Duperval, and Marguerite Grandison. They’re charged in a related scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from 2001 through 2006. Their trial date hasn’t been set.
As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
View the DOJ’s October 25, 2011 release here.