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25916: (news) Chamberlain: Inquiry accuses Haiti's Aristide of embezzlement (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Investigators appointed by
Haiti's interim government accused ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
of misusing up to $50 million in public funds, much of it believed to have
The head of the Administrative Inquiry Commission, Paul Denis, said a
good deal of the money ended up in the personal bank accounts of close
collaborators of Aristide, who fled Haiti in February 2004 after an armed
revolt and under U.S. and French pressure to quit.
"From February 2001 to February 2003, about $50 million was used
without justification, including $19 million that went through (president)
Aristide's secretariat to land in private bank accounts," Denis told
Reuters on Tuesday.
The commission was one of two inquiries launched into government
finances under Aristide after the former priest and champion of the
Caribbean country's poor was replaced by a U.S.-backed interim
administration. Accused of despotism and corruption, Aristide is now in
exile in South Africa.
Earlier this year, Haiti's Central Unit of Financial Inquiries
reported that Aristide and senior aides had tried to siphon off around $5
million from government accounts into private institutions controlled by
Aristide. Aristide's party dismissed those accusations, and the new ones
Denis said his inquiry found that the Aristide government routinely
misappropriated millions of dollars in customs payments by companies
importing products into Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
He said a rice importer, Chako, paid up to $5 million in customs fees
to the head of the government-run bank, Banque Populaire Haitienne (Haitian
Popular Bank), instead of to the customs agency.
"Aristide's office made sure that the amount was not paid to customs
authorities, but directly to ... the head of Haiti's popular bank,
appointed by Aristide," said Denis. He added that Chako's chief executive
officer, Joseph Dieuseul, had confirmed that and said he always paid in
Denis said the head of customs under Aristide received orders to allow
companies that had paid money to the state-owned bank to take their goods
out of customs.
"Aristide and his accomplices should be prosecuted to make sure such
corrupt practices don't occur in the future," said Denis, adding that he
believed the cases his commission had unearthed were just the tip of an
Neither Aristide, from exile, nor the former head of the popular bank
could be reached for comment.
But officials in Aristide's Lavalas Family party said the accusations
were a "political lynching."
"I think the de facto government is trying to destroy Aristide and to
kill him politically," said Felito Doran, a party spokesman.
"Paul Denis was the most outspoken and fiercest opponent of Aristide.
So how can any government ask someone like that to investigate the
administration of the president he hated and fought against, even with the
most illegal and violent means," Doran said.