Former Alcatel exec jailed on bribery charges

Costa Rica contract pitch violates US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

A former executive with Alcatel has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for a US$2.5 million (NZ$3.63 billion) bribery scheme in an attempt to win a mobile telephone contract from the government of Costa Rica.

During th sentencing last week, Christian Sapsizian, 62, was also ordered by Judge Patricia Seitz of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami to forfeit US$261,500.

Sapsizian, a French citizen, pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He was indicted in March 2007. Sapsizian agreed to cooperate with US and foreign law-enforcement officials in an ongoing investigation.

The DOJ called the bribery scheme "elaborate" in a press release.

Until late 2006, when it merged with Lucent, Alcatel was a French company that had its US depository receipts traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Sapsizian worked for Alcatel or one of its subsidiaries for more than 20 years, and at the time of the bribes, he served as the assistant to the vice president of the Latin American region for Alcatel, now called Alcatel-Lucent.

Between February 2000 and September 2004, Sapsizian 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 with the government-owned mobile carrier, the US Department of Justice says.

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