Retired Army Colonel Charged in Haitian Bribery Scheme

BOSTON (CN) – Announcing the arrest of a retired U.S. Army colonel, federal prosecutors say he helped launder bribes for Haitian officials in connection to  a post-earthquake project.

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 former U.S. Army Col. Joseph Baptiste was on the board of directors of a certain company promoting this $84 million port-development project.

When the FBI sent an undercover agent to meet with Baptiste in November 2014, an investigation of Haiti’s pay-to-play politics was already three months underway, according to an affidavit from Special Agent Garett Trombly.

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.

Trombly’s affidavit says the government later intercepted phone calls in which 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 the 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.

Baptiste, 64, was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with a criminal complaint filed in Massachusetts. The Fulton, Maryland, resident faces one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and and to commit money laundering.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss.

Agent Trombly notes that plans for the port project included 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.

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