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Court delivers longest FCPA sentence in history

Former telecommunications company president gets 15 years in prison

Experts weren’t kidding when they warned companies that the government is cracking down on executives who violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

On Tuesday, a Florida district court sentenced Joel Esquenazi, the former president of Miami-based Terra Telecommunications Corp., to 15 years in prison for bribing foreign officials in Haiti. The prison term is the longest FCPA sentence ever.

In August, a federal jury found Esquenazi guilty of bribing officials at the state-owned Haitian telecommunications company Haiti Teleco in order to secure business advantages for Terra, which had multiple contracts with the company so that its customers could place calls to Haiti.

The Justice Department claims Esquenazi authorized nearly $1 million in illegal payments to Haitian officials between November 2001 and March 2005. The jury in August found Esquenazi and Terra’s vice president, Carlos Rodriguez, guilty of seven counts of violating the FCPA, 12 counts of money laundering, one count of money laundering conspiracy and, one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and wire fraud.

Esquenazi’s 15-year sentence and Rodriguez’s seven-year sentence “confirm the serious consequences of ignoring corporate ethics when doing business abroad,” Wilfredo A. Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement.

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