From top: Denis O’Brien in Haiti, 2010; Part of an FBI affidavit in a Haiti bribery case to be heard next month
In January 2007, Denis O’Brien’s Caribbean mobile phone company Digicel become the first company to be awarded a license to operate a GSM network in Haiti.
The company described the contract as a ‘milestone’, and said it came about as a result of a tender process entered jointly with onefone, a subsidiary of Haitian GB Group.
Next month in New York, retired US Army colonel Joseph Baptiste faces charges for his alleged role in a bribery and money laundering scheme in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in Haiti.
Mr Baptiste was the president of a Maryland, USA-based non-profit organisation with the stated mission of ‘helping the impoverished in Haiti’.
He allegedly told FBI agents during a recorded meeting at a Boston hotel that he would funnel payments to Haitian officials through the non-profit.
Mr Baptiste claims ‘he had used a Haitian company to facilitate payments to government officials for the telecommunications deal..’
He described it as one of “his most successful personal investments”.
Last month, Mr Baptiste, who had signed a plea deal, filed a motion to suppress the statements made to the FBI agents and asserted that they were taken in violation of his rights.
Digicel, meanwhile, remains an alleged “co-conspirator” in a lawsuit taken by US-based Haitian emigrants concerning a $1.5 billion ‘scam’ to divert cash that was meant to fund education. Denying any wrongdoing, the company last month, stated:
“Digicel has always conducted its business in Haiti consistent with all applicable laws and regulations.”