Retired U.S. Army Colonel Charged with Conspiring to Bribe Senior Officials of the Republic of Haiti
BOSTON – A retired United States Army colonel was arrested and charged today for conspiring to bribe senior officials of the Republic of Haiti, and to launder funds for that purpose, in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in that country.
Joseph Baptiste, 64, of Fulton, Md., was charged in the District of Massachusetts with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit money laundering. Baptiste will make an initial appearance in federal court in Maryland this afternoon.
According to court documents, in or about August 2014, an investigation began into certain Haitian-American businessmen who were offering to facilitate bribes to high-level officials in the Haitian government, in exchange for the ability to obtain or retain business in that country.
It is alleged that Baptiste solicited bribes from undercover agents in Boston who posed as potential investors in infrastructure projects in Haiti, in connection with a proposed project to develop a port in the Mole-Saint-Nicolas area of Haiti. The proposed project was expected to cost approximately $84 million and was to involve the construction of multiple cement factories, a shipping-vessel recycling station, an international transshipment station with numerous slips for shipping vessels, a power plant, a petroleum depot and tourist facilities. During a recorded meeting at a Boston-area hotel, Baptiste allegedly told the agents that he would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity that he controls – which is based in Maryland and purports to help impoverished residents of Haiti – in order to secure government approval of the project. The complaint also alleges that, in a subsequent recorded phone call, Baptiste had the following exchange with one of the undercover agents:
AGENT: OK, and would all the money that I . . . that I wire to you . . . would it all go to [Foreign Official 1] or only part of it?
BAPTISTE: I would say all of it.
AGENT: OK, so all the . . . so if [I] wire you 20 . . . if I wire 25,000 to [Maryland Non-Profit 1] it will all go to [Foreign Official 1]?
BAPTISTE: All going to be . . . yes, uh-huh.
AGENT: OK, and then, uh . . . you’re not . . . it . . . will he do those letters [committing to support the project] without the money? He . . . or does he have to have that money?
BAPTISTE: I think he has to have it.
In intercepted telephone calls, Baptiste also allegedly discussed bribing an aide to a senior Haitian official with a job on the port development project. It is alleged that after undercover agents wired approximately $50,000 to the non-profit controlled by Baptiste for the purpose of bribing Haitian officials, Baptiste used the $50,000 for personal purposes, though he intended to seek additional money from the agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts; Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office, made the announcement. The FBI is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank, Chief of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Trial Attorney Aisling O’Shea of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The charges contained in the charging document are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.