A Haitian-American man from Maryland has been arrested and charged for bribery and fraud after an undercover FBI investigation into "certain Haitian-American businessmen who were offering to facilitate bribes to high-level officials in the Haitian government."
The US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts said that Joseph Baptiste, 64, was arrested and charged with conspiring to bribe senior officials in Haiti, and "to launder funds for that purpose, in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in that country." He is alleged to have solicited bribes from a pair of undercover FBI agents working in Boston.
Baptiste— who is retired from the US Army where he rose to the rank of Colonel—operates a Maryland-based non-profit that purports to help Haitian people. He is expected to appear in a federal court in Maryland today.
According to federal prosecutors, Baptiste solicited bribes from the undercover agents who "posed as potential investors in infrastructure projects in Haiti, in connection with a proposed project to develop a port in the Mole-Saint-Nicolas area of Haiti."
Baptiste was caught on a wire-tap telling the agents that he would "funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity that he controls... in order to secure government approval of the project."
The complaint also alleges that, in a subsequent recorded phone call, Baptiste had the following exchange with one of the undercover agents:
AGENT: OK, and would all the money that I . . . that I wire to you . . . would it all go to [Foreign Official 1] or only part of it?
BAPTISTE: I would say all of it.
AGENT: OK, so all the . . . so if [I] wire you 20 . . . if I wire 25,000 to [Maryland Non-Profit 1] it will all go to [Foreign Official 1]?
BAPTISTE: All going to be . . . yes, uh-huh.
AGENT: OK, and then, uh . . . you’re not . . . it . . . will he do those letters [committing to support the project] without the money? He . . . or does he have to have that money?
BAPTISTE: I think he has to have it.
According to a statement from the US Attorney: "The undercover agents wired approximately $50,000 to the non-profit controlled by Baptiste for the purpose of bribing Haitian officials, Baptiste used the $50,000 for personal purposes, though he intended to seek additional money from the agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project."