Patrick Joseph, a former executive at Haiti’s formerly state-owned telecommunications company has been jailed for a year for accepting bribes from two United States companies awarded long-distance phone contracts in Haiti.
Joseph, the former director general of Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to bribery charges earlier this year. Court documents show he is cooperating with American authorities in a high-profile probe involving several former officials in former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s administration.
The sentencing came four months after Joseph’s father, Venel Joseph, a former president of Haiti’s central bank under Aristide, was shot and killed in Port-au-Prince, following a media report that his son was assisting US officials.
Joseph’s sentencing, handed down by a federal judge on Friday, was made without any public notice and published this week because of concern by US officials about his safety.
The case centres on a multibillion-dollar bribery and money-laundering scheme involving two Florida-based telecommunications companies and ex-Aristide officials being prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits US-linked firms from bribing foreign officials.
Last year, the former president of Florida-based Terra Telecommunications Corp was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the bribery scheme.
Prosecutors said from November 2001 through March 2005 the company paid more than $890,000 to shell companies later used as kickbacks to Haitian government officials.
US officials have also charged former executives at a second company, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc.
Earlier this year, The Miami Herald, citing legal sources, reported that Aristide was tied to the probe. The Herald identified him as an unnamed government official mentioned in court documents as having received a payment.
A lawyer for Aristide vehemently denied the allegation, which could not be independently confirmed.
A former Roman Catholic priest, Aristide was first elected president in 1991 and served two terms before he was ousted from power by former soldiers in 2004. He returned to Haiti last year after seven years in exile in South Africa.
Haiti Teleco, which was privatized in 2010 and is now controlled by a Vietnamese company Viettel, was once the sole provider of landline telephone service in Haiti.