Telecom Provider Pleads Guilty to Bribery Charge

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Latin Node, a provider of telecommunications services to Latin America and other countries, has pleaded guilty to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with millions of dollars in bribes paid to telecom officials in Honduras and Yemen, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Latin Node, sometimes called LatiNode, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to one count of violating FCPA's bribery provisions. As part of the plea agreement, the company agreed to pay a US$2 million fine over three years, the DOJ said.

Between March 2004 and June 2007, Latin Node paid nearly $1.1 million to third parties, knowing that some or all of the funds would be passed on as bribes to officials of Hondutel, the Honduran state-owned telecommunications company, the DOJ said in a press release.

Latin Node made these payments in exchange for an interconnection agreement with Hondutel and for reduced interconnection rates, Latin Node acknowledged in its plea agreement. Payments were made to senior executives at Hondutel, the DOJ said.

In addition, between July 2005 and April 2006, Latin Node made 17 payments totalling nearly $1.2 million to Yemeni officials or a third-party consultant for favorable interconnection rates in Yemen, the DOJ said. The payments went to several people, including senior executives at TeleYemen, the Yemeni government-owned telecommunications company, and officials from the Yemeni Ministry of Telecommunications, the DOJ said.

A Miami phone number identified as Latin Node's was disconnected Wednesday. A spokesman for eLandia International, Latin Node's parent company, was not immediately available for comment.

However, the DOJ noted that the criminal investigation into Latin Node stemmed from eLandia disclosing potential FCPA violations to the agency after eLandia's acquisition of Latin Node in mid-2007.

ELandia's lawyers voluntarily disclosed the unlawful conduct to the DOJ promptly upon discovering it and cooperated fully with an investigation, the DOJ said.

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