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Longest FCPA Sentence Ever.



The 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

Telecoms Executives like the former president of a telecommunications company was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the longest term ever handed down in a U.S. foreign bribery case.

The Justice Department had charged a Florida company and its president with paying $1.4 million in bribes to officials at Haiti's state-owned telecommunications firm. The charges are part of a broader investigation of Florida telecoms that allegedly paid bribes to Haitian officials in return for preferred rates and other business advantages.

Joel Esquenazi, the former president of Terra Telecommunications Corp., received the sentence Tuesday from U.S. District Judge Jose E Martinez in the Southern District of Florida. Carlos Rodriguez, the former vice president of Terra, received seven years in prison.

Both were convicted in August for their roles in a scheme to bribe officials at the Haiti state-owned telecoms company. They were found guilty of seven counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 12 counts of money laundering, one of money laundering conspiracy and one of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and wire fraud.

Michael J. Rosen, Esquenazi's lawyer, said Wednesday morning that he will appeal the conviction, and will pursue the question of who actually owns Haiti Teleco. "This man really believes in his innocence and it's my job to vindicate his belief," said Rosen.

The defendants paid more than $890,000 from November 2001 to March 2005 to shell companies to be used for bribes by Haiti Teleco, the sole provider of land line telephone service in the country.

Terra had a series of contracts with Haiti Teleco to allow its customers to place calls to Haiti, and the purpose of the bribes was to obtain various advantages such as preferred rates, reductions in the number of minutes for which payment was owed and the continuance of Terra's connection with Haiti, according to the Justice Department.

Several other defendants in the case, including Terra's controller and the director of international affairs for Haiti Teleco, have pleaded guilty to various crimes, and they are all serving or have served sentences of various lengths.

The long prison sentences confirm the serious consequences of ignoring corporate ethics and Bribery fraud and Corruption Compliance when doing business abroad.

Source: Wall Street Journal