Haiti: US indicts five in Téléco bribe case

On Dec. 7 the US Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging two former Haitian officials, two former executives of an unnamed Florida telecommunications company and the president of Florida-based Telecom Consulting Services Corp with foreign bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. According to the indictment, the telecommunications company paid more than $800,000 to shell companies to be used for bribes to officials of Haiti’s state-owned telecommunications company, Télécommunications d’Haiti (Haiti Téléco). Two other Florida executives pleaded guilty to related charges last spring. The right-wing Haitian daily Le Matin reported that the unnamed Florida company was Terra Telecommunications Corporation.

The US says the alleged bribery went on from November 2001 through March 2005—in other words, during much of the second term of left-populist president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004), and during the first year of the conservative interim government installed after Aristide was forced from power in late February 2004. (Justice Department press release, Dec. 7; Miami Herald, Dec. 9; Le Matin, Dec. 11)

There have been repeated accusations of corruption in Téléco. In July 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined IDT, a New Jersey telecommunications company closed linked to the US Republican party, some $1.3 million for failing to file a contract for telephone service to Haiti in 2004; a former IDT manager charged that the company had negotiated an illegal deal with Téléco. [Plans to privatize the company also sparked protests last year.]

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 15

See our last post on Haiti.