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25790: Hermantin(news)Jury: Haitian smuggled drugs (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2005
Jury: Haitian smuggled drugs
One of Haiti's biggest reputed drug traffickers faces life in prison after a
federal jury in Miami found him guilty of conspiring to ship tons of cocaine to
the United States.
BY JAY WEAVER
A federal jury in Miami convicted a powerful Haitian businessman Thursday of
running a conspiracy to export tons of cocaine and pay hundreds of thousands of
dollars in bribes to top security officials in the government of ousted
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Serge Edouard, 43, reputedly one of Haiti's richest men, showed no emotion when
the jury found him guilty of 11 counts of cocaine smuggling and money
laundering. He could spend the rest of his life in prison.
''He's kind of in shock,'' defense attorney Clayton Kaeiser told Edouard's
sister and some of his six children outside the courtroom. He plans an appeal.
Edouard's sister, who did not want to be identified, said she was upset that
their convicted half-brothers, Hugues and Hubert Edouard, testified against the
defendant in the hope of reducing their prison sentences.
Serge Edouard was the family's patriarch who brought the half-brothers into his
Port-au-Prince lottery business and alleged drug organization.
''It's so sad to see family turning on him because of jealousy,'' she said.
Edouard's sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore is set
for Sept. 29.
Federal prosecutors Lynn Kirkpatrick and Matthew Axelrod are pursuing more than
$15 million in assets -- homes, a Mercedes-Benz, bank accounts -- that Edouard
allegedly acquired with drug profits from cocaine sales in South Florida and
New York. The U.S. government has already seized more than $5 million in assets
The 12-person jury deliberated for two hours, capping a weeklong trial
highlighted by the testimony of Aristide's former security chief, Oriel Jean.
Jean, 40, testified that Aristide approved a national security badge for
Edouard so he could travel freely in the country without police searching him.
Jean told jurors that Aristide was unaware of his involvement in the alleged
drug organization headed by Edouard. Aristide only learned about it after
confronting the security chief in 2003, Jean said.
That year, U.S. officials began pressuring Aristide to crack down on suspected
drug traffickers who were using the island's airport to move tons of Colombian
cocaine to the United States. The investigation, led by the Drug Enforcement
Administration, FBI and Internal Revenue Service, resulted in the arrest of at
least 14 suspects -- including Jean.
Jean said Edouard rewarded him with $40,000 for obtaining the security badge
that helped provide protection for cocaine shipments to the United States.
Jean, who recently pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge, is
hoping to reduce his upcoming prison sentence.
The ex-security chief did not testify that he or Edouard ever gave any
protection money to Aristide.
The former president, exiled in South Africa since his ouster last year, is a
target of the probe.
On Wednesday, Jean testified that Edouard gave an unspecified amount of money
to the Aristide Foundation, one of the ex-president's private social welfare
Aristide's Miami attorney, Ira Kurzban, has said that if any government funds
were transferred to his social works foundation, they went to legitimate