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’
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