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FCPA Blog Daily News

Entries in Haiti (52)

Thursday
Feb102011

Florida Road Trip Nixed; Trial Delay Requested

A defendant in the Haiti telco case, Joel Esquenazi, scheduled to be tried this month in Miami, is asking for a delay until July.

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Friday
Jan212011

Two-Year Prison Sentence In Haiti Telco Case

A fourth third man was jailed Friday for bribing Haitian officials on behalf of U.S.-based telecommunications companies.

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Friday
Jan142011

The Carnage Of Corruption

A new study found that 83 percent of all deaths caused by collapsing buildings during earthquakes occurred in corrupt countries.

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Friday
Dec032010

A Missing Cornerstone Of Enforcement?

A look behind the DOJ's tally of individual prosecutions under the FCPA.

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Friday
Nov192010

Mysteries Among Us

Creation has given up many of its deepest secrets. But how sentencing decisions are made in FCPA-related cases isn't one of them.

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Saturday
Jul312010

Long Jail Term In Haiti Bribes Case

Juan Diaz, a Miami businessman at the center of the Haiti telco bribery case, was sentenced Friday to 57 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in May 2009 to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering.

Diaz, 52, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and to forfeit $1,028,851 and pay $73,824 in restitution.

He's the third man to be sentenced in the case. In June, Robert Antoine, 62, an employee of Haiti’s state-owned national telecommunications company, Telecommunications D’Haiti, was sentenced to 48 months in prison.  The resident of Miami and Haiti had pleaded guilty in March this year to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted accepting bribes from Diaz and others.

Diaz said in his plea that he bribed Haiti telco officials with about a million dollars on behalf of three different Miami-Dade County telecommunications companies. He concealed the payments by laundering money through his company, J.D. Locator Services.

Some of the bribe money was also laundered by Jean Fourcand, 62, who pleaded guilty in February this year to money laundering, and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Antonio Perez, 52, the controller of one of the Miami telcos, pleaded guilty in April 2009 to a one count criminal information charging him with conspiring to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He's still waiting to be sentenced. 

Four other individuals are scheduled to go on trial in the case in December 2010. Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez were the owners of one of the Florida-based telcos; Jean Rene Duperval was director of international relations of Telecommunications D’Haiti; and Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison, was also allegedly part of the scheme. They were indicted with Antoine in December 2009.

As the Justice Department says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Diaz is scheduled to begin serving his prison term on January 4, 2011. A copy of the minutes of his judgement and sentence can be downloaded here. (We'll post his plea agreement when it's released.)

A copy of the Justice Department's July 30, 2010 news release is here.

Download a copy of Robert Antoine's February 19, 2010 plea agreement (entered March 12, 2010) here.

Download a copy of Antoine's factual statement in connection with his guilty plea here.

Download a copy of the criminal information in U.S. v. Fourcand here.

Download a copy of the plea agreement in U.S. v. Fourcand here.

Download a copy of the indictment in U.S. v. Equenazi et al here.

Thursday
Jun032010

Four-Year Sentence In Haiti Case

A former employee of Haiti’s state-owned national telecommunications company was sentenced yesterday to 48 months in prison for being part of a bribery and money-laundering scheme. 

Robert Antoine, 62, of Miami and Haiti, pleaded guilty in March this year to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was also ordered by the federal judge in Miami to pay $1,852,209 in restitution and to forfeit $1,580,771, and serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.

Antoine was indicted in December 2009. From 2001 to 2003, he was the director of international affairs for Telecommunications D’Haiti. He admitted accepting bribes from three U.S. telco companies. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act reaches bribe payers but not bribe takers. Antoine, however, disguised the origin of the bribes by passing them through intermediary companies in the U.S., including J.D. Locator Services. Disguising the origin of funds in U.S. commerce constitutes an offense under the anti-money laundering law 18 U.S.C. §1956.

Juan Diaz, 51, the president of J.D. Locator, pleaded guilty in May 2009, to conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA and money laundering. He hasn't been sentenced.

Antoine also said some of the bribe money was laundered by Jean Fourcand, who pleaded guilty in February this year to money laundering. He named Antoine in his guilty plea. Fourcand, 62, was earlier sentenced to six months in prison for his involvement.

Antoine said $800,000 of the funds he received were intended to be from a U.S. telco company of which Joel Esquenazi was the president and director, Carlos Rodriguez was the executive vice president, and Antonio Perez was, at times, the controller. Perez, 51, pleaded guilty in April 2009 to conspiring to commit FCPA violations and money laundering. He's also waiting to be sentenced.

Esquenazi and Rodriguez, as well as Jean Rene Duperval, who was director of international relations of Telecommunications D’Haiti from 2003 to 2004, and Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison, were indicted with Antoine in December 2009. Their trial is scheduled to begin July 19, 2010 in U.S. District Court in Miami.

As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Download a copy of the December 4, 2009 indictment in United States v. Joel Esquenazi, et al here.

Download a copy of Robert Antoine's February 19, 2010 plea agreement (entered March 12, 2010) here.

Download a copy of Antoine's factual statement in connection with his guilty plea here.

Tuesday
Mar232010

Speaking Freely

The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of VirginiaThe Miller Center of Public Affairs [at the University of Virginia] has a long tradition of luring influential people to speak to engaged citizens, but this genteel practice degenerated on Friday, March 19, at an appearance by the lawyer who wrote the infamous “torture memos” that the Bush Administration used to justify waterboarding terrorist suspects. While irate audience members shouted at the interrupters, the Center’s programs director, George Gilliam, scolded disruptive protesters during the talk by University of California at Berkeley law professor John Yoo. -- Uncivil discourse: Protesters disrupt Yoo at Miller Center, The Hook

*   *   *

Free speech is something most Americans say they believe in. But some don't act that way. Shouting down a speaker because his or her view is unpopular isn't free speech. It's using more volume to drown out less volume. If we're honest, many of us would say we believe in free speech for ourselves but not for our neighbors. That's why we all need the First Amendment.

*   *   *

Andy Spalding's views of FCPA enforcement as a de facto economic sanction against developing countries aren't always popular. But they force us to look again at national and global anti-corruption policy. We think Stephanie Connor's response to Andy's most recent comments in this space sum up the counter-argument nicely. She says,

Dear Andy,

Don’t get me wrong, I think your analysis of the FCPA as a de facto sanction is downright brilliant. But we have to distinguish between increases in investment and decreases in poverty. As many commentators have noted over the last several decades, foreign direct investment does not impact poverty because of corruption. This is one of the most significant factors playing into the relationship between resource wealth and economic failure. Corruption prevents the proceeds of investment from spreading throughout an economy because it creates strong incentives for political actors to control the access to resources. 

Moreover, we cannot gloss over the practical realities that “black-knights” will face when they invest in corrupt economies, and what that means for long-term investment. For example, when the Angolan government rejected IMF funding in 2007, China stepped in as Angola’s benefactor. But the Chinese government soon grew exasperated with the rampant corruption, and demanded greater transparency.

You and I agree that we need robust international anti-corruption enforcement. But others are abusing a short-term analysis of the FCPA's impact on investment to reach the opposite conclusion. I’m referring to a recent suggestion that FCPA enforcement will undermine Haiti’s recovery. For the first time in its sad history, Haiti is getting some attention from the international community, an influx of donor money, and an opportunity to rebuild. This is not the time to advocate for bribery.

No amount of FCPA enforcement will completely stamp out corruption. There will always be local officials who demand bribes, and there will always be free-riding foreign companies who choose to ignore the law. The FCPA seeks to punish comparatively wealthy actors who benefit from and sustain a lack of transparency. We should give the law some time to work.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Connor

Monday
Mar222010

That's Right, Follow The Money

It's hard to bribe a foreign official without someone laundering the money. That's why money-laundering charges are part of most FCPA cases. Each shot-show defendant, for example, was charged with conspiracy to launder money. And it's why the DOJ uses the same law against corrupt foreign officials, as in the recent Haiti telco case. (The FCPA doesn't reach bribe takers, only bribe payers.)

The U.S. anti-money laundering law is 18 U.S.C. §1956. It packs a wallop -- a fine of a half million dollars or more, and up to 20 years in prison. (Jail terms for FCPA anti-bribery violations are five years maximum.)

What's a money-laundering offense? Knowingly using money that comes from an illegal activity; trying to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of unlawful activity; or trying to avoid reporting a transaction that has to be reported under state or federal law.

Foreigners are subject to the U.S. anti-money laundering law if any part of their transaction happens in the U.S., if they use property in which the U.S. has an interest (through a judgment, lien, or court order), or if they maintain a bank account at a financial institution in the U.S.

Just as bribery usually involves money laundering, money laundering usually involves tax evasion. Again in the Haiti telco case, it was the IRS's Miami field office that investigated Robert Antoine, the former director of international affairs for Haiti telco, who lived in both Miami and Haiti. He pleaded guilty last week to a money-laundering conspiracy (same statute; same potential penalties).

Evidence of money laundering often leads to discovery of other crimes. On its extensive AML website, the University of Exeter says:

Although money laundering is a threat to the good functioning of a financial system, it can also be the Achilles heel of criminal activity. In law enforcement investigations of organised criminal activity, it is frequently the connections made through financial transaction records that allow hidden assets to be located and that establish the identity of the criminals and the criminal organisation involved.

The DOJ hasn't said how often it finds FCPA offenses through money-laundering investigations.  

Saturday
Mar132010

Guilty Plea By Former Haitian Telco Official

A former Haitian phone company official at the center of a major Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecution pleaded guilty Friday to a money-laundering conspiracy. 

The Justice Department said Robert Antoine, 62, of Miami and Haiti, the director of international affairs for state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti from May 2001 to April 2003, accepted bribes from three U.S. telecommunications companies. To disguise the bribes, Antoine laundered them through intermediary companies, including J.D. Locator Services. 

Antoine was indicted on money-laundering charges in December 2009. Bribe takers cannot be prosecuted under the FCPA.

Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator, pleaded guilty in May 2009 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted he paid and concealed $1,028,851 in bribes while acting as an intermediary for three private telecommunications companies.

Antoine said in his plea that a portion of the J.D. Locator funds were also laundered by Jean Fourcand of Fourcand Enterprises, who pleaded guilty last month to money laundering.

Antonio Perez, 51, of Miami, the former controller of one of the U.S. telcos, pleaded guilty in April 2009 to a one-count information charging him with conspiring to bribe officials at Telecommunications D'Haiti. Perez arranged bribes of $674,193 to the Haitian officials while he worked at the company from March 1998 to January 2002.

Diaz and Perez are waiting to be sentenced.

Antoine said during his guilty plea that $800,000 was given to him by a U.S. telecommunications company of which Joel Esquenazi was the president and director, Carlos Rodriguez was the executive vice president, and Antonio Perez was the controller.

Esquenazi and Rodriguez, as well as Jean Rene Duperval, who was director of international relations of Telecommunications D’Haiti from June 2003 to April 2004, and Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison, were indicted along with Antoine in December 2009. (As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)

Following his guilty plea, Antoine faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. He already agreed to a forfeiture order of $1,580,771. He's scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2010.

Download a copy of the indictment in US v. Esquenazi et al here.

Friday
Feb192010

Money-Laundering Plea In Haiti Telco Case

The Justice Department said today the head of a Florida-based company pleaded guilty to laundering money used to bribe former officials at Haiti's state-owned telecommunications company.

Jean Fourcand, 62, of Miami, was the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc. He admitted receiving funds in 2001 and 2002 from U.S. phone companies for the benefit of employees of Telecommunications D’Haiti (Haiti Telco). The money came from an intermediary company, J.D. Locator Services Inc.

The president of J.D. Locator, Juan Diaz, 51, pleaded guilty in May 2009 to conspiracy to commit violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering. He paid and concealed $1,028,851 in bribes while acting as an intermediary for three private telecommunications companies.

Also in the case, Antonio Perez, 51, of Miami, the former controller of one of the U.S. telcos, pleaded guilty in April 2009 to a one-count information charging him with conspiring to bribe officials at Haiti Telco. Perez arranged bribes of $674,193 to the Haitian officials while he worked at the company from March 1998 to January 2002.

The money laundering charge against Fourcand -- engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity (18 U.S.C. 1957) -- carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value of the property involved. Fourcand also agreed to forfeit $18,500, the amount of one of the checks he laundered.

Fourcand said in his plea that Robert Antoine, the former director of international relations at Haiti Telco, received the bribes. Antoine was indicted in December 2009 for conspiring to launder money. According to the DOJ, he was "arrested and expelled from Haiti" to face the U.S. charges.

Also charged in December 2009 were Joel Esquenazi, the former president, and Carlos Rodriguez, the former executive vice president of a U.S. telecommunications 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.

Charges were also brought against Jean Rene Duperval, a former official at Haiti Telco, who's facing one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering, and Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison. 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.

As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In its release, the Justice Department said it received help gathering evidence from Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE)-- a specialized component of the Haitian National Police -- and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

View a copy of the DOJ's February 19, 2010 release here.

Download a copy of the criminal information in U.S. v. Fourcand here.

Download a copy of the plea agreement in U.S. v. Fourcand here.

Download a copy of the indictment in U.S. v. Equenazi et al here.

Monday
Dec072009

Five Indicted For Haiti Telco Bribes

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.