Digicel targets US company with lawsuit and enlists Haitian police

O’Brien-owned telecoms firm enlists Haitian police to investigate alleged fraud

Digicel has accused UPM of bypassing its Haitian systems to terminate international calls on its network for free using a sophisticated technique

Digicel has accused UPM of bypassing its Haitian systems to terminate international calls on its network for free using a sophisticated technique

 

Digicel, the Caribbean mobile phone company owned by Denis O’Brien, has stepped up its war on internet telephony firms it accuses of profiting from a “free ride” on its networks by not paying fees to connect with its customers.

Digicel has launched a lawsuit in the United States alleging that an internet telecoms company has been engaged in a multimillion-dollar organised crime racket designed to defraud its unit in Haiti, one of the largest and most most profitable parts of Digicel’s empire.

According to recent court filings, Mr O’Brien’s company enlisted the help of the Haitian police to help it investigate the alleged “bypass fraud”. It says this is being carried out by UPM Telecom, an Oregon internet telephony group that has yet to respond to the allegations.

Haitian police have arrested people in Haiti that Digicel described in the court documents as “co-conspirators” of UPM.

Evidence

Mr O’Brien’s company has also hired private investigators Shields Crime and Security Consultants to help it investigate the fraud allegations.

Normally, when one telecoms company connects a call to a customer of another network, the receiving network is paid a “termination fee”. Digicel has long harboured a grievance against companies which offer cheap or even free calls over the web without paying it termination fees.

Lobbying

Jamaica

In Haiti, termination fees are at 23 cents per minute – 18 cents for receiving networks like Digicel and a five cent levy towards a state education fund.

Digicel has accused UPM of bypassing its Haitian systems to terminate international calls on its network for free using a sophisticated technique.

It has submitted to the US court what it claims is evidence UPM sent its Haitian alleged “co-conspirators” equipment to engage in bypass fraud. It has also submitted documents it says show Digicel Sim cards were shipped to it from Haiti.

It is now suing UPM for punitive damages in Oregon and has also invoked claims under Rico racketeering laws, which were originally enacted in the fight against organised crime.

UPM could be not reached for comment.