September 9, 2011

Corruption but no corruptos in Honduras

Buen Provecho!

corruption HondurasBon appetit!

Image: Dario Banegas
La Prensa, Honduras

Did you know that the US has some laws that even cover crimes committed in other countries? The US doesn't agree with the "When in Rome, do as the Romans" philosophy for US corporations. The officers of one company found out about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act the hard way.

After winning a long distance services contract in 2005 with Hondutel (the state-owned telephone company), Latin Node (Latinode) was apparently approached by Honduran government officials with a deal to "sweeten the pot". With bribe payments in the right places, an even lower connection fee would be charged by Hondutel. One by one, former officials of the company are going to prison for paying US $500,000 in bribes to Honduran officials in 2006-2007. Four down and three more to go. Additionally, the company itself was required to pay a US $2 million fine.

Here in Honduras? Nada. There is an old saying here: "En Honduras hay corrupción, pero no hay corruptos." Honduras is full of corruption but there are no corruptos. At least none that can be convicted and very, very few that can even be charged. I suppose it goes back to "Honor among thieves" or "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

Marcelo Chimirri, former head of Hondutel, was one of those rare exceptions who did spend a few months in jail before he raised L.4 million bail. Initially he even had the audacity to use government funds to pay lawyers to defend him and the other accused against the corruption charges. Here is Chimirri having a good laugh at the justice system after he was released.

According to one Wikileaks cable, Latinode may only be the tip of the iceberg. "Latinode is one of 16 new international carriers that Hondutel has contracted with since the new administration of President Jose Manuel "Mel" Zelaya took office in 2005. Most of these contracts, including Latinode, contain suspect "confidentiality clauses" that seem to arbitrarily lower their rates." Despite the totally shocking information included in this cable, Chimirri was found not guilty of fraud charges and is still awaiting trial for abuse of authority charges. If a man like Chimirri (read the cable!) can not be convicted, there is really no hope for Honduras. Hat tip to Omar for sending me the cable.

It seems that if the cases have already been proven in the US, it shouldn't be such a stretch for Honduran prosecutors to win convictions in Honduras. While some of the Honduran officials were charged, we can't even find out the name of one of the bribed officials. His name has been maintained secret by three different administrations for all of these years. For all we know, he may be one of the many running for president.
Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...