US telecom provider's former CEO sentenced for bribing

The former CEO of Latin Node pleaded guilty in May to paying bribes in return for business

A former CEO of Latin Node, a telecommunications company in Florida, was sentenced to 46 months in prison under U.S. anti-bribery laws on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said

Jorge Granados, 55, pleaded guilty on May 19 to a conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to pay Honduran officials more than US$500,000 in bribes, DOJ said in a release on Thursday.

After its acquisition of Latin Node, known as LatiNode, in 2007 and discovery of the improper payments, eLandia International, an information and communications technologies services provider in Florida, disclosed potential FCPA violations to the department.

In his guilty plea, Granados admitted to authorizing bribes to be paid to officials in Honduras in return for business advantages from state-owned telecommunications company, Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel)

LatiNode was the sole winner in December 2005 of an interconnection agreement with Hondutel, permitting it to use the Honduran company's telecommunications lines to establish a network between Honduras and the U.S. and to provide long distance services between the two countries.

U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard for the Southern District of Florida also ordered Granados of Miami to serve two years of supervised release following the prison term.

The FCPA makes it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.

A number of technology companies have come under scrutiny for bribing people abroad to get business. U.S. federal agencies are investigating whether Oracle violated federal anti-bribery laws in dealings abroad, The Wall Street Journal reported last month, citing people familiar with the matter. Oracle declined to comment on the report.

To date, four former senior executives of LatiNode have pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay bribes to the Honduran officials, DOJ said. The other three executives are to be sentenced later this year.

Between September 2006 and June 2007, Granados and others caused more than $500,000 in bribes to be paid to the Honduran officials, according to court documents, concealing many of the payments by laundering the money through LatiNode's subsidiaries in Guatemala and to accounts in Honduras controlled by the Honduran government officials.

LatiNode pleaded guilty on April 7, 2009, to a one-count information charging the company with a criminal violation of the FCPA and agreed to pay a $2 million fine.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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