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.
In an affidavit from an FBI agent – part of the criminal complaint – Mr Baptiste also boasts of he and his affiliates having delivered the licence to ‘build a cellular network in Haiti’.
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.”
Checking In On The Baptiste Action (FCAProfessor)
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Indicted for Conspiring to Bribe Senior Government Officials of the Republic of Haiti (Us Department of Justice)