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Feds bring new charges against Joseph Baptiste

A retired U.S. Army colonel was charged in an indictment filed Wednesday for his alleged role in a foreign bribery and money laundering scheme in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in Haiti.

Joseph Baptiste, 64, of Fulton, Maryland, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Travel Act, one count of violating the Travel Act, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Wednesday's indictment also seeks forfeitures from Baptiste under the Travel Act and money laundering counts.

The indictment was filed in federal court in Boston.

The Travel Act (18 U.S. C. §1952) prohibits traveling between states or countries or using an interstate facility in aid of any crime. It carries a five-year prison sentence for most offenses.

Violations of the federal money laundering statute (18 U.S. Code §1956) are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Penalties for FCPA anti-bribery offenses include up to five years in prison.

Baptiste was arrested in late August.

He was originally charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to launder money.

Wednesday's indictment alleges that Baptiste solicited bribes from undercover FBI agents in Boston who posed as potential investors in connection with a proposed project to develop a port in the Moles Saint Nicolas area of Haiti.

The proposed project was expected to cost about $84 million and involved construction of a cement factory in its first phase.

The indictment alleges that during a recorded meeting at a Boston-area hotel, Baptiste told the agents he would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a Maryland-based non-profit Baptiste controlled.

The non-profit was purportedly set up to help impoverished residents of Haiti.

The indictment also alleges that in telephone calls, Baptiste discussed bribing an aide to a senior Haitian official by giving him a job on the port development project after he left his position.

Undercover agents wired about $50,000 to the non-profit, according to the indictment.

Baptiste ultimately used the money to pay personal expenses. But he "intended to seek additional money from the undercover agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project," according to the DOJ.

The indictment filed October 4, 2017 in U.S. v. Baptiste is here (pdf).


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.