March 12, 2012 – Mary O’Grady today used a killing in Haiti linked to bribery of former Haiti Teleco officials to attack the Democrats. She said investigators might uncover the details of the arrangement that Fusion Telecommunications”run by former Democratic Party Finance Chairman Marvin Rosen with Joseph P. Kennedy II and numerous influential Democrats had in Haiti during the Clinton years. She didn’t mention that there is much more evidence of Teleco bribery by IDT, then run by former Republican Congressman James Courter with a host of high-level GOP bigwigs.
Sept 24, 2010 – Last Saturday, Barron’s ran my story in which IDT CEO Howard Jonas admitted for the first time a suspect deal with then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that involved sending payments due Haiti to a law firm in the Turks and Caicos. Jonas told me the company had gotten a lawyer’s ethics letter clearing the deal. But he wouldn’t provide it.
A day before the story was to run, Barron’s got a call from a lawyer of the firm representing IDT in a lawsuit by former IDT executive D. Michael Jewett, who says the company fired him for objecting to the offshore deal. He promised to provide the ethics letter. It was the end of day, Friday. The magazine noted that promise when it published the next day.
Days later, the lawyer called to say he couldn’t provide the letter because it was sealed. Hard to believe: there is no sealing order for the letter in the case docket.
Scoop summary: Howard Jonas, CEO of U.S. telecom IDT, in an interview with Lucy Komisar, acknowledges for the first time that then Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2003 met with an IDT official during discussions about a contract to pay Haiti Teleco for calls from U.S. customers. That contract included agreement for IDT to send payments to a shell company in the offshore Turks and Caicos Islands. Jonas said IDT got an ethics letter from a law firm clearing the deal, but the lawyer said in a memo filed with the court, published here for the first time, that he simply told IDT to do due diligence. IDT signed the contract the next day.
A former IDT official, who objected to the deal, was fired and is suing the company; trial is set for Nov 9th. The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jonas’s revelations are likely to have a major impact in the trial and investigations.
When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January, IDT, the New Jersey-based global phone company, moved fast to help.
It announced it was setting up calling stations at hotels and other sites so Haitians could use its Internet calling-service to reach family and friends around the world. It cut rates on its U.S. prepaid calling-card to 2 cents a minute to Haiti (at least for 12 days), donated 4,000 $2-prepaid calling-cards to Haitian community groups in New York and Florida, and said it would give some proceeds from prepaid calls to Haitian Red Cross relief.
Such a warm, fuzzy response from a U.S. corporation often wins plaudits, though, of course, IDT has a business interest in the impoverished island. In 2005, in its latest publicly available figures, the company reported $4 million in profits from $17 million in revenues for routing calls there.
Articles I wrote this month about the resignation of IDT CEO James Courter as John McCain‘s finance co-chair provoked supporters of former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to noisy denials and personal attacks.
I wrote that Courter had resigned after I reported that the Federal Communications Commission had fined IDT $1.3 million for failing to file its contract with Haiti.
Why would IDT fail to file the contract? Maybe because it shows that in this Aristide-administration deal, payments were below the legal 23 cents a minute set by the FCC (money that would have gone to Haiti) and that IDT payments were ordered sent to a shell company account in the Turks & Caicos instead of to a government account in Haiti.
Jim Courter, one of Senator John McCain’s top fundraisers, has resigned from the McCain campaign just days after Lucy Komisar reported on portfolio.com that Courter’s company had been fined by regulators.
The Federal Communications Commission last week levied a fine of $1.3 million against IDT, a New Jersey telecommunications company headed by Courter, for failing to disclose its 2003-04 long-distance phone agreements with Haiti.
The company is under investigation by the SEC, the United States Attorney in Newark, New Jersey, and a U.S. federal grand jury for allegedly paying bribes to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former president of Haiti. Five nationally prominent US Republicans, the independent board members of a corporation that has been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get a sweetheart telecom deal in Haiti, are leaving its board. The company is IDT, the world’s third-ranked international phone company.
IDT is run by James Courter (shown here), a former New Jersey Republican congressman. The other Republicans are Rudy Boschwitz, former senator from Minnesota; James S. Gilmore III, former Virginia governor; Thomas Slade Gorton III, former senator from Washington State; Jack Kemp, former congressman from New York and 1996 vice presidential nominee; and Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN under President Ronald Reagan.
The U.S. Justice Department is withholding agreement to share assets seized from Haitian drug traffickers to finance a lawsuit by the Haitian government charging former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with taking bribes.
The suit is based on allegations by a former executive of the telecom company IDT that before Aristide left the country in 2004, he took hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from IDT, which is connected to prominent U.S. Republicans.
Sept 18, 2006 Is top Justice official protecting a former client accused of bribery?
The Justice Department’s Criminal Division, headed by a Bush political appointee who gave legal advice to a company accused of bribing Haiti’s former president, is blocking an agreement to share seized Haitian drug money that would help Haiti pursue the bribery case in U.S. courts. The accused company is run by a former Republican congressman.
The Criminal Division chief, Alice Fisher, formerly a registered lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by the father of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is a recess appointee. Her approval was blocked by Senators concerned about her qualifications and about her participation in a government meeting on abusive interrogations at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo.
Two U.S. lawsuits charge that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his associates accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from politically connected U.S. telecom companies.
Lawsuits filed this Fall challenge the former priest‘s image of political purity and raise claims that both he and U.S. corporate executives scammed illegal profits off the hemisphere‘s poorest population.
In one suit, a fired executive charged his former employer, the U.S. telecom IDT (Newark, NJ), with corruption, defamation, and intimidation under the New Jersey anti-racketeering law. In the second, the government of Haiti contends that IDT, Fusion (New York, NY) and several other North American telecoms violated the federal RICO anti-racketeering statute. Both suits allege that Aristide, now in exile in South Africa, and his associates, took kickbacks.
Add former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the long list of corrupt and repressive officials who have used Western banks and companies and offshore tax havens to plunder their countries and launder the stolen money.
Aristide and his associates looted government coffers, wrote checks to front companies for nonexistent purchases, padded invoices to get kickbacks from vendors, secretly owned companies that cheated Haiti of taxes, and laundered the money they stole through shell companies and secret bank accounts set up in the United States and the offshore tax havens of Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.
Nearly $20 million has been documented as stolen between 2001, when Aristide took office as president for the second time, and 2004, when he fled or was forced out of the country according to varying accounts.