WASHINGTON – A former Alcatel CIT (Alcatel) executive was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for engaging in an elaborate bribery scheme to obtain a mobile telephone contract from the state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica by making more than $2.5 million in corrupt payments to Costa Rican officials, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich announced.
Christian Sapsizian, 62, was also ordered by the Honorable Patricia A. Seitz of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami to forfeit $261,500, to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a $200 special assessment. Sapsizian, a French citizen, pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the FCPA as charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 20, 2007. As part of his plea, Sapsizian agreed to cooperate with U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials in the ongoing investigation. The assistance provided by Sapsizian in ongoing criminal investigations was taken into consideration by the court at sentencing.
According to information contained in plea documents, until Nov. 30, 2006, Alcatel was a French telecommunications company whose American depositary receipts were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. According to plea documents, Sapsizian was employed by Alcatel or one of its subsidiaries for more than 20 years and at the time the corrupt payments were made, was the assistant to the vice president of the Latin American region for Alcatel.
Sapsizian admitted that between February 2000 and September 2004, he conspired with Edgar Valverde Acosta, a Costa Rican citizen who was Alcatel’s senior country officer in Costa Rica, and others to make more than $2.5 million in bribe payments to Costa Rican officials to obtain a telecommunications contract on behalf of Alcatel. According to information in plea documents, the payments were made to a board director for Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), the state-run telecommunications authority in Costa Rica, which was responsible for awarding all telecommunications contracts. Sapsizian also admitted that the ICE official was an advisor to a senior Costa Rican government official and that the payments were shared with that senior official. The payments, funneled through one of Alcatel’s Costa Rican consulting firms, were intended to cause the ICE official and the senior government official to exercise their influence to initiate a bid process which favored Alcatel’s technology, Sapsizian admitted, and to vote to award Alcatel a mobile telephone contract. According to plea documents, Alcatel was awarded a mobile telephone contract by ICE in August 2001 valued at $149 million.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Charles E. Duross and Trial Attorney Andrew N. Gentin of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary K. Dimke of the Western District of Washington, with the assistance of the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs. The matter continues to be investigated by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Substantial assistance was provided by the Southeast Regional Branch of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of the Attorney General in Costa Rica, the Fiscalia de Delitos Economicos, Corrupcion y Tributarios in Costa Rica and French law enforcement authorities.