Haiti: Former President Aristide Implicated in U.S. Corruption Investigation

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Monday, 05 March 2012 16:47

MIAMI, USA (defend.ht) - Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is not identified by name in a federal indictment that sent four South Florida businessmen and two former Haitian government officials to prison or facing sentencing, but defense attorneys say "Official B", a subject in the reports, is the former president.

Aristide is being accused by the U.S. judicial system of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from Miami businesses that brokered long-distance phone deals with Haiti's government-owned telecommunications company, TeleCo.

According to the indictment, wrote the Miami Herald, Official B and senior officials of Haiti Teleco, received payments totaling $2.3 million from Miami businesses Cinergy Telecommunications and Uniplex Telecom Technologies. The businesses are accused of using "shell" companies to kick back the money to those officials.

Aristide's lawyer, Ira Kurzban, declined to comment about the Justice Department's investigation because the ex-president hasn't been charged with any crime. But, Kurzban said: "I view this as part of the same smear campaign that the United States has orchestrated against Aristide since he was first elected in 1990."

Some observers say the release of this information is the U.S. government sending a signal to Aristide to think twice about trying to re-enter the political scene.

Recent displays of popular support is "very worrisome to the U.S." said Robert Fatton who studies Haitian politics at the University of Virginia.

Since an earlier related indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in 2009, a dozen South Florida business people and Haitian officials have been charged in the high-profile case, alleging the payment of kickbacks in exchange for discounted long-distance phone rates. Profits from those lower rates were pocketed by the Haitian officials — not the government's phone company.

Last week, the news reported that a complaint was filed against by Haitian State Fmr President Aristide for corruption and drug-trafficking, notably. But Minister of Justice denied such a move by the present government.