Miami Herald posted November 3, 2005
Haiti: Aristide stole millions
Haiti's interim government filed suit against former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Miami federal court, accusing him of stealing millions from the Haitian people.
By JACQUELINE CHARLES
Haiti's interim government has brought its accusations against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Miami federal court, accusing him of stealing ''tens of millions of dollars'' from the Haitian treasury and state-owned telephone company.
''Aristide abused his power and deceived and betrayed the Haitian people by directing and participating in ongoing and fraudulent schemes,'' the 74-page civil lawsuit filed by several law firms hired by the government alleges.
Since his ouster from office last year in the face of an armed rebellion, Aris
tide, who now lives in South Africa, has become the target of several probes. A Miami federal grand jury is investigating whether he pocketed millions of dollars from drug traffickers who moved tons of cocaine through his poor nation.
Haitian investigators have sent two corruption reports to an investigative judge as the first step toward seeking criminal prosecution of the ousted president. They accuse Aristide of illegally pumping millions of dollars in public funds into shell companies and into his private charities that promoted his popularity among the poor.
The federal lawsuit is based on evidence gathered by Haiti's government.
''The misappropriated funds were frequently diverted and laundered through fictitious companies, established for this purpose by Aristide and his accomplices, both in Haiti and the United States,'' the lawsuit said. ``Aristide and his accomplices stole tens of millions of dollars from the public treasury and transferred a portion of those funds to the U
Miami attorney Ira Kurzban, who represents Aristide, could not be reached for comment.
He has previously denied any wrongdoing by the exiled president.
In addition to Aristide, the lawsuit names eight other defendants
including his brother-in-law, Lesley Lavelanet; former finance minister, Faubert Gustave; the former general manager of a government-owned commercial bank, Rodnee Deschineau; and Fred Beliard, a Broward businessman.
Beliard is accused of helping Aristide and his associates receive kickbacks in exchange for providing favorable rates to certain U.S. and Canadian telecommunications firms doing business in Haiti. He, along with Lavelanet and Jean Rene Duperval -- another defendant and the former director of international relations for Teleco, Haiti's state-owned telephone company -- live in Florida.
In filing the lawsuit in Miami, lawyers accuse Aristide and his associates of breaking U.S. law, a
lleging transactions were done through wire transfers to Miami banks and U.S. companies.
For instance, the suit alleges that $1.7 million in public funds from an account held by a ''fictitious company,'' VJLS
at a government-owned commercial bank, BPH
, was sent to an account at HSBC Bank
in Miami held by Haffey Corporation,
a front company.
In another instance, the lawsuit alleges that Lavelanet, received $92,500 in wired stolen public funds as the CEO of a company called Digitek.
In addition to the government, Teleco is accusing Aristide, Beliard and others of ``knowingly and intentionally participating in an ongoing and fraudulent scheme to steal revenues rightfully belonging to Teleco.''
Among companies mentioned in the lawsuit is New Jersey-based IDT, which is the focus of another lawsuit fi
led last year by former employee and Palm Beach resident Michael Jewett.
In his wrongful dismissal lawsuit, Jewett alleges that his bosses at IDT agreed to make payments to a ''private bank account'' held by Aristide in the Turks and Caicos Islands in exchange for favorable rates in Haiti. He has accused Beliard of working on behalf of Aristide. Beliard, who could not be reached for comment, has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.
Washington Post November 4, 2005
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti's interim government filed a civil lawsuit accusing former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of embezzling tens of millions of dollars of public funds and said it would pursue criminal prosecution. Aristide's attorney called the accusations baseless.