Originally: Unfinished Haitian Business
The allegations didn’t get much media attention outside of Haiti, but the U.S. Department of Justice is finally moving on a long-running investigation of corruption at Haiti’s government-owned telecom monopoly after the Clinton administration sent U.S. troops to restore controversial Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
Indicted last week were two executives of a Florida telecommunications company and two former high-ranking officials of Haiti Teleco. One of the Haitians was extradited on Saturday and is being held on $1 million bail. The Haitian Diaspora in the U.S. is legendary for calling home, generating plenty of phone traffic. The indictment claims that the Florida company “executed contracts with Haiti Teleco” whereby it enjoyed “preferential telecommunications rates” for connecting those calls and in return paid bribes to Haitian officials.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Haiti’s own post-Aristide interim government filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Aristide and several Teleco employees of “looting the public treasury” through such schemes. Previous disclosures have revealed that another company, Fusion Telecommunications, whose board included Mr. Aristide’s close friend Joseph P. Kennedy II and Bill Clinton’s chum Mack McLarty, received a 1999 Haiti Teleco contract with a rate well below the FCC’s mandated official settlement rate. Ditto New-Jersey based IDT: According to a lawsuit by a former IDT employee, IDT signed a preferential deal with Teleco in 2003 that allegedly included an agreement to make payments to an offshore account for the benefit of Mr. Aristide.
Revenues paid by U.S. carriers terminating traffic in Haiti are one of the few sources of hard currency for the impoverished country. What exactly was going on between Haiti Teleco and politically-connected Americans in the wake of a U.S. military operation to put Mr. Aristide back in power after a domestic coup? Those questions have never been answered.