Haiti Bribe Case Leads to Army Colonel’s Indictment

WASHINGTON (CN) – Expanding their case over an $84 million project to develop a port in Haiti, federal prosecutors filed a bribery indictment Wednesday against a retired U.S. Army colonel.

The indictment of Joseph Baptiste, 64, comes just over a month after authorities arrested the Fulton, Maryland, on a felony complaint alleging conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit money laundering.

Wednesday’s indictment alleges the FCPA conspiracy count as well, plus one count of violating the Travel Act and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Both sets of charges were filed in the District of Massachusetts.

The plan to develop a port in the Moles Saint Nicolas area of Haiti was one of many proposed infrastructure developments in the wake of the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Prosecutors say Baptiste was on the board of directors of a certain company promoting this $84 million port-development project, which was set to include 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 FBI sent an undercover agent to meet with Baptiste in November 2014, already three months into an investigation of Haiti’s pay-to-play politics.

Thinking the agent was interested in investing in Haitian infrastructure projects, Baptiste allegedly met with the man for hours at a Boston-area hotel, going over how he could use a Maryland nonprofit he controlled to facilitate bribe payments to Haitian officials.

Prosecutors say Baptiste is also a practicing dentist and his Maryland-based nonprofit purports to help impoverished residents of Haiti.

The government later intercepted phone calls in which it says Baptiste discussed bribing an aide to a senior Haitian official with a job on the port-development project.

In one recorded call, the undercover agent allegedly asked Baptiste if they would be able to get the permits for the project before bribing the official.

“I think he has to have it,” Baptiste replied, according to an agent’s affidavit.

Prosecutors say the FBI then wired approximately $50,000 to Baptiste’s nonprofit, which Baptiste ultimately used for personal purposes. Baptiste allegedly intended to seek additional money from the agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project.

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