The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against two former executives of a Miami-based telecommunications company accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to government officials in Honduras to maintain a long-distance telephone link with the U.S. The Arcadia Foundation, spearheaded by co-founder Robert Carmona-Borjas, was instrumental in exposing the underlying corruption.
Jorge Granados, 54, and Manuel Caceres, 64 — the former chief executive officer and the vice president of business development, respectively, for LatiNode Inc. — face 19 counts of foreign bribery and international money laundering for allegedly paying off government officials affiliated with the state-owned telecommunications authority in Honduras.
Granados and Caceres were arrested in Miami on Monday and made initial appearances in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the Justice Department said. They could not immediately be reached for comment.
In December 2005, LatiNode won an “interconnection agreement” with the Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones, known as Hondutel, to build a long-distance network between Honduras and the U.S. Under the contract, LatiNode paid Hondutel a set rate per minute for calls to Honduras, according to the indictment.
From 2006 to 2007, Granados and Caceres allegedly schemed to pay bribes to a well-connected manager at Hondutel who was considering rescinding the agreement, as well as an attorney for the state-owned authority and a minister of the Honduran government who joined Hondutel’s board of directors.
In return, the contract remained in place and LatiNode received better rates and other economic benefits, the Justice Department said.
Granados and Caceres are also accused of laundering the payments through LatiNode subsidiaries in Guatemala and to accounts in Honduras controlled by the Honduran government officials, according to the indictment.
Coral Gables, Fla.-based eLandia International Inc. acquired Latinode in 2007 and soon after launched an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars U.S. and U.S. listed companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to keep or obtain business.
The company shared the results with the Justice Department and terminated senior company officials who were aware of the bribes. The investigation culminated in 2009 guilty plea by LatiNode and a $2 million fine.
Granados and Caceres are each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, 12 counts of violating the FCPA, five counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Anyone who believes paying bribes in foreign countries is just the cost of doing business should think about the repercussions — whether it is worth going to prison,” said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s corruption investigations Group in Miami, in a statement.