Yesterday, the DOJ announced that Joseph Baptiste (pictured – a retired U.S. Army Colonel, practicing dentist, and former founder/president of a Maryland-based Haitian focused non-profit) was criminally charged “for his alleged role in a foreign bribery and money laundering scheme in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in Haiti.”
According to this FBI Agent affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, during the time period relevant to the complaint Baptiste served as the president of an entity headquartered in Maryland that purported to be a non-profit organization with the stated mission of helping the impoverished in Haiti” and further served as a member of the board of directors of Company A, an LLC organized under Delaware Law. According to the affidavit, Company A’s mission was to promote a port development project in an area of Haiti known as Moles Saint Nicolas.
As stated in the DOJ’s release:
“The complaint alleges 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 Moles Saint Nicolas area of Haiti. According to the complaint, 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. The complaint alleges that Baptiste told the agents, in a recorded meeting at a Boston-area hotel, that he would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity that he controlled — which was based in Maryland and purported to help impoverished residents of Haiti — in order to secure government approval of the project.
The complaint further alleges that in telephone calls intercepted by agents pursuant to court authorization, Baptiste discussed bribing an aide to a senior Haitian official by giving him a job on the port development project after he left his position. It further alleges that although Baptiste ultimately used for personal purposes approximately $50,000 that he received from undercover agents for the payment of bribes to Haitian officials — money that was wired at Baptiste’s direction to a non-profit organization he controls — he intended to seek additional money from the undercover agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project.”
As stated in the affidavit:
“In or about August 2014, the FBI began investigating certain Haitian-American businessmen who were offering to facilitate bribes to high-level officials of the government of Haiti, in exchange for the ability to obtain or retain business in that country. During the investigation, Baptiste solicited bribes from an undercover agent of the FBI, purportedly to be paid to Haitian government officials in connection with certain infrastructure projects in Haiti including a mining project and the Port Project.”
According to the affidavit (which references several recorded or intercepted phone calls), Baptiste offered to use the Maryland non-profit as a vehicle for payments to Haiti officials and the affidavit further states that “Baptiste described two prior instances in which he had helped make payments to Haitian government officials to obtain a license to operate in Haiti.
The affidavit notes that Baptiste executed a sworn declaration “in which he affirmed that although he used the money he received [from undercover agents] for personal purposes, he intended to use future payments [from undercover agents] to make bribe payments in connection with the Port Project.”
The affidavit further states:
“On or about December 9, 2015 Baptiste was approached by federal agents. Thereafter, Baptiste, who was represented by a criminal defense attorney, entered into a plea agreement with the government pursuant to which he agreed to waive indictment and plead guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA anti-bribery provisions and Travel Act. Baptiste signed the sworn declaration in connection with the plea agreement. More recently, Baptiste has indicated, through counsel, that he does not intend to honor his plea agreement or to plead guilty.”
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