[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
25352: Hermantin(news)Exiled leader's money sought (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Fri, Jun. 10, 2005
Exiled leader's money sought
The $5.6 million that former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier
deposited in Swiss bank accounts was at the heart of an international dispute.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
A $5.6 million bounty belonging to former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ''Baby
Doc'' Duvalier is at the center of an international dispute involving members
of South Florida's Haitian community, the exiled dictator and the governments
of Haiti and Switzerland.
Roman Catholic priest and former Miami Haitian activist the Rev. Gerard
Jean-Juste says he and other South Florida Haitians are entitled to the funds
-- stashed in Swiss bank accounts -- as partial payment toward a $504 million
judgment the community won against the Duvalier regime 18 years ago in U.S.
At the very least, the funds shouldn't go to Haiti's interim government, argued
Jean-Juste, who held a picket outside the Swiss consulate on Brickell Bay Drive
in Miami on Thursday. ``They need to return the money to the legitimate
government of Haiti, not Latortue.''
He was referring to interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, whose
U.S.-backed government replaced the elected administration of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide following a February 2004 rebellion. Jean-Juste, an
Aristide ally, has become a prominent player in Haiti's political landscape and
doesn't recognize the interim government.
Jean-Juste and others said the Swiss government should be negotiating with
victims of Duvalier's atrocities.
As a newly ordained priest in 1971, Jean-Juste said he was arrested and
tortured by Baby Doc's secret police after he refused to attend a church
service in Les Cayes, Haiti, and make an oath to the Duvalier government.
After Duvalier and his wife, Michelle Bennett Duvalier, fled Haiti in 1986,
Jean-Juste, then living in Miami, filed a lawsuit in U.S. courts for
''well-documented corruption and human rights abuses'' against himself and the
The plaintiffs were awarded $504 million. Nearly two decades and countless
Haitian governments later, neither he nor any of the victims has seen one cent
of the money, said Miami immigration attorney Ira Kurzban.
Kurzban, who represented Jean-Juste, was later hired by then-President Aristide
in 1991 to recoup more funds allegedly stolen by the Duvalier family and
stashed in foreign bank accounts. He managed to get about $1 million, he said.
Three years ago, the government of Switzerland froze the funds after ordering
its foreign affairs ministry to negotiate a settlement.
The government had no choice but to consult Duvalier because ''a mutual
assistance'' agreement with the Haitian government had expired, and legally
Switzerland could not hand all of the money over to Haiti, said Ralf Heckner, a
Swiss government spokesman in Washington, D.C.