Haiti | Judge issues arrest warrants for former executives on corruption charges

(Port-Au-Prince) A Haitian judge has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 senior officials accused of government corruption, including several former presidents and prime ministers.

The arrest warrants, launched on Friday and disclosed on social networks at the end of the week, accuse these officials of embezzlement of funds or equipment linked to the National Equipment Center of Haiti.

This center is responsible for using heavy machinery for tasks such as building roads or clearing rubble, especially after an earthquake.

Among those targeted by the arrest warrants are former presidents Michel Martelly and Jocelerme Privert, as well as former prime ministers Laurent Lamothe, Jean-Michel Lapin, Evans Paul and Jean-Henry Céant. Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who was in power when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, is also accused.

None of the people named in the arrest warrants could immediately be reached for comment, although Messrs. Privert, Lapin and Joseph released statements denying the allegations.

No one has been arrested in this case.

The judge requests that the defendants meet him for questioning while the investigation continues, but only Claude Joseph has appeared in court so far.

It is common for Haitian government officials accused in a criminal or civil case to systematically ignore arrest warrants or requests for interrogation. They are then not exposed to any sanction, because they accuse the judges of political persecution.

It is also rare for a high-ranking Haitian official to be accused of corruption, let alone tried for the crime.

The local newspaper The Nouvelliste obtained a copy of a press release published by former Prime Minister Jean-Michel Lapin in which he declared having never been officially informed of the arrest warrant. He also said that at no time during his 32-year political career was he involved in the National Facilities Centre.

For his part, ex-president Jocelerme Privert issued a statement accusing the judge of acting in a malicious and thoughtless manner. He also maintains that the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, “has no jurisdiction over actions taken by presidents, prime ministers and ministers in the exercise of their functions.”

Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph wrote on Monday on the X platform that he would meet the judge, even if he rejected any association with the National Equipment Center.

“No one, no matter what position you hold in the state, is above the law,” he wrote. “If a judge decides to abuse his position by abusing justice, that is his business. I will not despise the justice of my country. I will be there. »

No further details about the investigation were immediately available.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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