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Haiti Teleco “Foreign Official” Says He Was Not A “Foreign Official” – Files Appeal On This And Other Issues

Some background is necessary to place in context an interesting development that is likewise relevant to the pending Eleventh Circuit “foreign official” appeal by Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez (see here for the prior post linking to the full briefing in the case).

In terms of the number of individual criminal defendants (9), the Haiti Teleco enforcement actions are the largest in FCPA history (minus the manufactured Africa Sting case).  The FCPA charges in the enforcement actions were based on the theory that Haiti Teleco was a “instrumentality ” of the Haitian government, such that Haiti Teleco employees were “foreign officials” under the FCPA.  Seven of the defendants pleaded guilty and two of the defendants, Esquenazi and Rodriguez, exercised their constitutional right to a jury trial and were found guilty of FCPA and related charges.  As noted above, both defendants have appealed their convictions to the Eleventh Circuit.  [Disclosure – I am providing pro bono expert services to defendants’ counsel, including my former law firm Foley & Lardner, relevant to the “foreign official” issue].

In addition to the FCPA (and related) charges brought against the above category of defendants, the DOJ also criminally charged three “foreign officials” in connection with the matter (see this prior post titled “Haiti Teleco Roundup” for additional details).  Two of the individuals pleaded guilty to non-FCPA offenses, and one “foreign official,” Jean Rene Duperval, was found guilty by a jury on various money laundering charges.

In short, 12 individuals were criminally charged, pleaded guilty, and/or were found guilty based, in whole or in part, on the theory that Haiti Teleco was an “instrumentality” of the Haitian government.

This prosecution theory of course is a main focus of the Esquenazi and Rodriguez appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.  As noted in this prior post, shortly after their convictions and before their current appeal, a stunning development occurred in the case as the Haitian Prime Minister (Jean Max Bellerive) authored a declaration, on behalf of the Haitian Ministry of Justice, concerning the “Legal Status of Teleco.”  (See here for the declaration).   The declaration asserted, among other things, that “Teleco has never been and until now is not a state enterprise.”  The declaration was dated ten days before the jury reached its verdict in the Esquenazi and Rodriguez trial and subsequent filings in the cases suggest that the origins of the declaration was in response to a letter sent by Paul Calli (Carlton Fields – then an attorney for Patrick Joseph (one of the “foreign officials” who pleaded guilty in the case)) inquiring about the status of Haiti Teleco and whether it was a private company or a government owned company.

In a further stunning development, and as noted in this prior post, after the Bellerive declaration surfaced, the DOJ contacted the Prime Minister and he filed a revised declaration (here), in which he backtracked from many of his prior declaration statements, and stated that he did not know his original declaration  “was going to be used in criminal legal proceedings in the United States or that it was going to be used in support of the argument that […] Teleco was not part of the Public Administration of Haiti.”

The trial court judge in the Esquenazi and Rodriguez case denied defendants’ request for a new trial and this denial is among the issues on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.

And now for the interesting and notable recent development alluded to in this Main Justice story.

Duperval, the key “foreign official” at the center of the Haiti Teleco prosecutions, filed an appeal (here) in the Eleventh Circuit earlier this week challenging his convictions.  One issue on appeal is stated as follows.  “The evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Haiti Teleco was a government instrumentality and that Jean Rene Duperval was a foreign official as required to prove that a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act generated proceeds of a specified unlawful activity – a necessary predicate for the convictions on the money laundering conspiracy and substantive money laundering charges.”

Separately, Duperval’s brief discusses the Bellerive declarations in connection with his due process challenges.  Among other things, the brief notes that the DOJ’s “explanation and Bellerive’s statements in his second declaration, are nothing short of disingenuous, border on the nonsensical, and are expressly contradicted by the previous correspondence, which established that Bellerive signed the first declaration in response to an inquiry from an attorney representing Patrick Joseph …”.    The brief then asserts that “but for the government’s unjustified interference with Prime Minister Bellerive, Mr. Duperval could have availed himself of a favorable witness to demonstrate quite simply that Teleco was not a government instrumentality and he was not a foreign official.”

Duperval’s brief also challenges the sufficiency of the trial court evidence regarding “foreign official” and whether Duperval was a “foreign official as required to prove a charge of money laundering related to the proceeds of a violation of the FCPA.”  The substantive arguments on this issue largely mirror previous defense arguments in the Lindsey Manufacturing and Carson “foreign official” challenges as well as Esquenazi’s and Rodriguez’s arguments on appeal.  Duperval’s argument includes discussion and several citations to my “foreign official” declaration (see here).

Another interesting aspect of Duperval’s appeal is his challenge that the “trial court erred in not charging the jury in accordance with Duperval’s proffered theory of defense instruction.”  Specifically, Duperval argues that the trial court denied Duperval’s FCPA facilitation payments exception instruction.  The brief asserts that the “language in the instruction was extracted verbatim” from the FCPA and that there was “ample evidence in the record to support the giving of the instruction.”

In this regard, it is interesting to note that in Judge Keith Ellison’s (S.D. Tex.) December 2012 Jackson / Ruehlen decision (see here for the prior post regarding the SEC enforcement action) he concluded, in what is believed to be an issue of first impression, that the SEC must bear the burden of negating the facilitation payments exception.

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