Ex-Haiti official gets U.S. prison for telecom bribery

Reuters News
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Posted: May 24, 2012 2:20 PM
Ex-Haiti official gets U.S. prison for telecom bribery

MIAMI (Reuters) - A former senior telecommunications official in Haiti was sentenced to nine years in prison on Monday for accepting about $500,000 in bribes from two U.S. companies that secured lucrative long-distance phone contracts in the Caribbean nation.

A jury unanimously found Jean Rene Duperval guilty in March in a case based on 2001-2005 dealings that involved several former officials who served under former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Duperval, a 45-year-old resident of Miramar, Florida, had faced up to 20 years imprisonment at his sentencing. U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez in Miami sentenced him to nine years and put him on notice that he will be deported after completing his term.

Duperval, a former director of international relations at Haiti Teleco, Haiti's state-run telecommunications company, was prosecuted as part of a broader investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S.-linked companies from bribing foreign officials.

He was convicted of laundering more than $497,000 paid to him - by Terra Telecommunications Corp and Cinergy Telecommunications Inc - as part of an elaborate bribery scheme in exchange for doling out contracts. Prosecutors said he used South Florida-based shell companies to conceal his crimes.

Duperval was the eighth defendant involved in the corruption scheme to be convicted so far.

Last year, the former president of Florida-based Terra was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in a scheme to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to officials in Haiti.

Prosecutors said that from November 2001 through March 2005 the company paid more than $890,000 to shell companies to be used as kickbacks to Haitian government officials.

Terra sought to obtain business advantages through the bribes, including preferred telecoms rates, prosecutors said. U.S. officials have also charged former executives at Cinergy.

Haiti Teleco, which was privatized in 2010 and is now controlled by Vietnamese military-run company Viettel, was the sole provider of land line telephone service in Haiti. Terra held contracts with Haiti Teleco that allowed the company's customers to place calls to Haiti.

(Reporting By Tom Brown; editing by Mohammad Zargham)