Two Plead Guilty in Telecom Bribery Case

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Two men, including the former controller of a Florida telecommunications company, have pleaded guilty to charges related to a conspiracy to pay more than US$1 million in bribes to Haitian government officials, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Juan Diaz, age 51, of Miami, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials in an effort to gain advantages for three Miami-area telecom vendors from Haiti's state-owned telecom company, Telecommunications D'Haiti.

Diaz was charged with violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering laws in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Antonio Perez, also age 51, of Miami, pleaded guilty April 27 to a charge of conspiring to making corrupt payments for a Miami-area telecom vendor. Perez was controller at a Miami telecom vendor from March 1998 to January 2002, and his company paid more than $674,000 in bribes to former Haitian officials, the DOJ said.

Court documents did not include the companies either man worked for, and a DOJ spokesman declined to name the companies.

The three Miami-area telecommunications companies executed a series of contracts with Telecommunications D'Haiti that allowed the companies' customers to place telephone calls to Haiti, the DOJ said. Diaz and Perez said they worked with the companies to make "side payments" through a shell company belonging to Diaz, to the former director of international relations and former director general of Telecommunications D'Haiti, the agency said.

In exchange for these payments, the Haitian officials allegedly gave a variety of business advantages to the Miami vendors, including preferred telecommunications rates and reducing the number of minutes for which payment was owed, the DOJ said in a press release.

From November 2001 through October 2003, Diaz and his coconspirators used his shell company for the sole purpose of accepting bribes and then laundering those bribes to then-Haitian government officials, the DOJ said. Diaz never intended to provide any legal goods or services from the shell company to anyone, and he kept more than $73,000 in commissions for laundering the bribes, the agency said.

Perez helped his employer make more than $36,000 worth of "side payments" between November 2001 and January 2002, the DOJ said.

Diaz and Perez each face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The DOJ's investigation in the case continues.

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