[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
26127: Hermantin (news)Ex-officer admits helping drug trade (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Wed, Aug. 24, 2005
Ex-officer admits helping drug trade
A third Haitian police officer pleaded guilty in the case against officials in
the government of deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
BY JAY WEAVER
A former Haitian police officer in charge of the Port-au-Prince airport pleaded
guilty Tuesday to assisting drug-traffickers ship Colombian cocaine to the
United States -- the latest conviction in a probe targeting deposed President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government.
Romaine Lestin, 36, admitted to shaking down Colombian and Haitian smugglers
for thousands of dollars and letting them fly cocaine-filled planes through
Haiti's capital to the United States.
He faces up to life in prison on the cocaine-conpiracy conviction. But he is
expected to receive only about 10 years at a sentencing hearing Nov. 9 before
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.
Lestin, expelled last summer from the Dominican Republic on a
smuggling-conspiracy charge, is among four senior Haitian National Police
officers implicated in the federal investigation led by the Drug Enforcement
Administration, IRS and FBI.
From January 2001 to February 2004, Lestin held three police positions --
commander of the SWAT unit, precinct captain of the community of Tabre, and
chief of the airport.
As part of his plea agreement, Lestin is providing inside information to
federal prosecutors who have charged at least 14 suspects, most of whom have
pleaded guilty to conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the United States
and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds.
Jean Nesly Lucien, the former director of Haiti's National Police force, and
Rudy Therassan, a former police commander, pleaded guilty this summer. Former
Haitian anti-drug czar Evintz Brillant faces trial Sept. 12.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein called the foursome ''corrupt national
police officers'' at Tuesday's plea hearing, saying they allowed cocaine to be
stowed in suitcases and cargo containers aboard American Airlines flights to
The wide-ranging investigation has not produced any direct evidence that
Aristide was aware of the cocaine-smuggling and money-laundering conspiracy.
Still, Aristide, who has been living in exile in South Africa since last year,
remains a target of the federal grand jury investigation.
At a sentencing hearing last year, another convicted Haitian cocaine smuggler,
Jacques Ketant, blurted out that Aristide was a ''drug lord.'' The statement
was not made under oath.
Aristide's name also was mentioned several times by a key witness in last
month's trial of a reputed drug kingpin.
Oriel Jean, convicted Haitian presidential palace security chief, testified
that Aristide approved a national security badge for Serge Edouard that allowed
him to travel freely throughout the country and that the powerful trafficker
donated money to the president's private charitable foundation.
Jean told jurors that Aristide was unaware of his involvement in the alleged
drug organization headed by Edouard. He said Aristide only learned about it
after confronting the security chief in 2003. The Miami federal jury convicted
Edouard of running a conspiracy to export cocaine and pay bribes to top
security officials in Aristide's administration.
Edouard, reputedly one of Haiti's richest men, was found guilty of 11 counts of
cocaine smuggling and money laundering. He faces up to life in prison.