RealTime IT News

Broadband Exec Sentenced For Bribing Lawmaker

For Vernon Jackson, the road to Internet riches in Africa has ended with a trip to a U.S. federal penitentiary.

Jackson, the chairman of the Louisville-based technology company iGate, was sentenced Friday to an 87-month prison term Friday for paying $400,000 in bribes to U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.).

The purpose of the bribes was to secure U.S. government support and influence for iGates' plan to bring broadband service to underserved countries in Africa.

As part of Jackson's plea agreement, the 53-year-old businessman agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice's (DoJ) ongoing probe of public corruption related to business deals in Africa and elsewhere.

Jefferson, while the subject of a federal investigation for influence peddling, has not been charged with any crimes.

"Public corruption degrades severely our institutions of government and undermines public confidence in the many thousands of honorable men and women who serve with distinction at all levels," U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

"We will do all we can to put an end to this corruption, wherever and whenever we find it."

According to court documents, Jackson approached Jefferson in 2000 for help in securing government contracts for iGates' broadband products.

Jefferson provided assistance that led to iGates securing a contract with the U.S. Army.

After providing the assistance to iGate, the DoJ claims Jefferson told Jackson he could no longer help the company unless payments were made to a company "ostensibly maintained" in the names of the lawmaker's family.

Jackson then signed a consulting agreement with Jefferson's nominee company in return for Jefferson's continued support for iGates' proposed business plans in Africa.

The consulting agreement included monthly payments of $7,500 to Jefferson's company in addition to stock options and a percentage of iGates' gross sales and a percentage of capital investments raised for iGate.

The agreement also called for payments to a member of Jefferson's family to perform legal work for iGate.

In return, according to the DoJ, Jefferson promised to use his influence with government officials in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon to further iGates' business interests.

Jefferson also promised to meet with the U.S. Export-Import Bank of the United States, the official export credit agency of the United States, to facilitate potential financing for iGate business deals in those countries.

In May, Jackson pleaded guilty to paying more than $400,000 to Jefferson's company and family members. He also took a guilty plea for using the consulting agreement to conceal the illegal nature of the payments demanded by Jefferson.