Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Jean Rene Duperval, the former Director of International Relations for Telecommunications D'Haiti, more commonly known as Haiti Telcom, the country's telephone monopoly, was convicted of 21 counts of money laundering, and money laundering conspiracy, in US District Court in Miami*. He received $500,000 in bribes from Miami telecom companies, for which he granted them contracts to service Haiti at extremely favourable rates, and laundered his criminal proceeds through two shell companies.

The American companies booked the bribes as "consulting services," and Duperval showed the money as "commissions" and "payroll" in his shell companies. This far, eight other defendants have been convicted in this case, including an American businessman who received a 15 year sentence for FCPA violations, which is believed to be the longest sentence handed down in a Foreign Corrupt Practise Act case. Duperval could theoretically, if the maximum sentences in each count were handed down to be served consecutively, receive a maximum sentence of 420 years in Federal Prison.

The case reaches all the way to the highest office in the hopelessly corrupt Republic of Haiti. The former head of the Central Bank of Haiti was assassinated recently in Port-au-Prince. His son, who is reportedly slated to testify in the Miami case, allegedly named former President Jean Bertrand Aristide as one of the recipients of bribes.

The scandal does not stop there; rumours persist of unusually favourable arrangements in Haitian telecommunications contracts that financially enriched high-ranking members of the Democratic Party in the United States. Whether these sensitive allegations will formally surface in the Miami case is not known, but they do reportedly involve individuals from the period when former President Bill Clinton served in office.

Readers not familiar with the country risk aspects of doing business in Haiti should understand that the level of institutionalised corruption there is higher than any other country in the Western Hemisphere, including Venezuela. Incurring any financial risk or exposure is to be avoided at all costs. The court system is dysfunctional, should you choose to assert contractual rights, or recover monetary damages, and I frankly felt in as much personal danger whilst working there, as I did as a soldier in Vietnam at the height of the war. Outside of private security, and the UN presence, the country is functionally lawless. You are well advised to avoid any financial entanglement that involves Haiti; take it from someone who has experience on the ground there.

A final note: Haiti Telco is reportedly now owned a by a corporation controlled by the military from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

*United States vs. Duperval, Case No.:  09-cr-21010 (SD FL).

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