PETROCARIBE: US COMPANIES MAY HAVE VIOLATED THE US FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT

 

 

PETROCARIBE: US COMPANIES MAY HAVE VIOLATED THE US FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT
WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this year, a Haitian senatorial committee headed by Senator Yourie Latortue released an investigative report regarding the Haiti Petrocaribe fund. Between 2008 and 2016, the Haitian government grossed nearly 3.2 billion dollars out of a Petro-Agreement with Venezuela. The agreement allowed the Haitian government to purchase petroleum and oil products at a reduced price. The government then resells the oil to local wholesalers for a profit. This arrangement with Venezuela allowed the Haitian government to accumulate billions of dollars. Money that those in charge could have used to alleviate the pains and sufferings of the Haitian masses.
Instead,  between 2008 and 2016  some 2.1 billion dollars vanished and ended up in the bank accounts of unscrupulous Haitian Bureaucrats like (Jean-Max Bellerive, Michel Martelly, Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie, Michael Lecorps Jacque Gabriel, Josefa Gauthier, Anne Valerie Milfort, Patrick Milford, and Kiko St. Remy) and Haitian businesses including several companies who are incorporated in the United States. The report reveals at least three US registered companies with offices in Florida participated in the pay-to-play scheme between 2010 and 2015. Those companies are IBT, LLC, a  limited liability company registered in the State of Florida; Consortium Tropic Build Holding, LLC, another US company, also registered in the State of Florida with a PO Box address in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and a third company, GTC, LLC.        
The Anti -Bribery Provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids American companies, US citizens, and green card holders to engage in corruption while conducting business overseas. Historically, the United States Justice Department had prosecuted businesses and US Citizens who bribed Haitian officials to gain access to lucrative contracts. A recent example of such prosecution is the case of Messrs. Esquenazi and Rodriguez.
Recently, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions and sentences of two executives from Terra Telecommunication for bribery of Haitian officials and conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering.  Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez were doing business in Haiti in 2008. In 2011, the US Justice Department charged them with violating the Anti-Bribery provisions of the Act. According to the US government, Messrs. Esquenazi and Rodriguez paid nearly $800,000 to government officials and employees of Telecommunication D’haiti (Teleco) in exchange for lucrative contracts. (Teleco is now owned by a Vietnamese company with the Haitian government retaining a small ownership interest).
The Esquenazi’s scheme is no different than the scheme engaged in by IBT, LLC,  Tropic Build, LLC and GTC, LLC. In the case of Tropic Build, Mr. Enrico Prospectus, an executive of the company testified that his company had received millions of dollars from the PetroCaribe fund. He also testified that it had not performed any of the contracts for which it received payments which raises a few important questions: Why would a Haitian minister of finance authorized full payment on several contracts without any guarantee? Why would a government bureaucrat circumvent established laws to award contracts to a foreign company that has absolutely no experience in housing construction?  What was the quid pro quo?  Nearly, five years later, Tropic Build has not performed on the contracts and has not returned the money to the Haitian Government.
In the case of IBT, LLC, the Florida company represented by Haitian strongman Kiko St. Remy who is the brother-in-law of former Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly. The company received six contracts totaling nearly $40 million dollars, which had been paid up front and in full, and to this day, the contracts had not been adequately performed, and the money has not been returned. In 2012 when IBT received the contracts, IBT was not a legal entity in Haiti. IBT was incorporated in Florida, and Haitian laws require the company to have been in the construction market for at least five years before such a construction contract can be awarded. However, in 2013, Wilson Laleau, Haiti’s minister of commerce at the time signed a waiver allowing the company to operate in Haiti. On paper, the company was hired to construct or renovate the following: Highway 9 that links Port-Au-Prince with Thomassin; two secondary schools: Lycee Toussaint Louverture, Lycee Petion; one public market in Fontamara, south of Port-Au-Prince and two hospitals: Hospital San fil and hospital Simbi. Under these six contracts, IBT and Kiko St. Remy pocketed nearly 40 million dollars of the PetroCaribe fund.  None of the projects listed have been completed.
A few questions American prosecutors may want to ask: who are the true owners of IBT, why was IBT paid $40 million for work it did not do? What was the quid pro quo between IBT, Wilson Laleau, Kiko St. Remy, President Martelly, Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie, and Josefa Gauthier? Since these funds were paid in American dollars and presumably deposited into American banks for the purpose of money laundering, it would be relatively easy to prosecute the perpetrators.
In the case of GTC, LLC, the Haitian government under Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive initially awarded a contract totaling 22 million dollars to GTC to build 18 kilometers of road covering Fermathe, Thomassin and Soisson. GTC was paid 21 million dollars up front and built only 8 kilometers of the road as opposed to the 18 kilometers they were contracted for. Despite the non-performance of the first contact, in 2012 under President Martelly and Wilson Laleau as Minister of Finance, GTC was awarded a second contract, this time for $45 million dollars to cover the same original 18 kilometers of road GTC had failed to build under the first contract for 22 million dollars. In effect, GTC pocketed 21 million dollars and poorly built 8 kilometers of road, then received another $45 million to an essence built the remaining 10 kilometers. To this day, the remaining 10 kilometers had not been built, and GTC had not returned the money to the Haitian government.
Below is a list of payments and dates, and the officials who authorized the payments to GTC knowing that GTC had not performed and was not going to perform. This amount is in addition to a new $45 million dollar contract awarded in 2012.
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PAYMENT                                 DATES                                           AMOUNT                         HAITIAN OFFICIALS
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Payment # 1                            3/2010                                  $2, 220,000.00                       PM- JeanMax Bellerive
Payment #2                             3/2011                                  $6,857,960.00                        PM- Jean Max Bellerive
Payment #3                             4/2012                                  $ 968,000.00                          Pres. Martelly
Payment # 4                            8/2012                                  $ 4, 380,118.50                      FM- Wilson Laleau
Payment # 5                            9/2012                                  $ 748,708.55                          FM-Wilson Laleau
Payment #6                             12/2012                                $ 220,272.51                          FM-Wilson Laleau
Payment #7                             1/2013                                  $1,271,101.26                        FM –
Payment # 8                            3/2014                                  $2,000,000.00                        FM  Jean-Marie
Payment #9                             5/2014                                  $63,343.53                             FM Jean Marie
Payment # 10                          9/2014                                   $1,773,089.88                       FM-Wilson Laleau
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The theft and misappropriation of government resources are just staggering, to say the least. But yet, not one single government official has been called to account for the theft of over 2 billion dollars of the PetroCaribe fund. OWN has been by far the only Haitian-American Newspaper who has consistently written about the PetroCaribe corruption in the hope of spurring a further investigation by the American government.  Most other Haitian media inside or outside Haiti chose to ignore the report and its revelations. The theft of 2.3 billion dollars was made partly possible by the above US Companies who allegedly paid bribes to government officials and participated in the theft. IBT, LLC, Tropic Building, LLC, and GTC, LLC are US companies with many questions to answer.  A visit by the FBI would indeed unveil more information.
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