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26294: Craig (news) Ex-Haiti cop's corruption trial about to begin (fwd)
From: Dan Craig <email@example.com>
Posted on Tue, Sep. 20, 2005
Ex-Haiti cop's corruption trial about to begin
A former top Haitian police official is about to go on trial on drug corruption
BY CURT ANDERSON
A top Haitian police official in the government of ousted President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is facing trial in Miami on charges that he accepted
thousands of dollars in bribes to help Colombian drug lords move huge loads of
cocaine through the impoverished Caribbean country.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin later this week in the case against Evintz
Brillant, the only one of four former senior Haitian police officials who has
not pleaded guilty in the investigation of drug trafficking inside the Aristide
The three who pleaded guilty are expected to cooperate in the U.S. government's
against Brillant, who has pleaded innocent and faces a life sentence if
The trial's scheduled Monday start before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke was
delayed a few days by the approach of Tropical Storm Rita.
According the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Brillant used his post as
head of Haiti's top anti-drug police unit from 2001 to 2004 to help drug
traffickers ship thousands of pounds of cocaine through Haiti, including the
airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince, to the United States, Europe and
Brillant and other top Haitian police officials, DEA Agent Noble Harrison said
in a court affidavit, "agreed to look the other way when shipments of cocaine
were in transit" in exchange for bribes, some of which he used to pay
lower-level police officers to provide security and protection for the drugs.
On occasion, Brillant "stopped and arrested drug traffickers for the purpose of
receiving payments and bribes," prosecutors said in court papers.
The investigation has produced no evidence implicating Aristide, even though
some convicted drug dealers have insisted that the former president was
intimately involved in trafficking through Haiti.
Aristide was ousted in February 2004 and is now living in exile in South
"There was never any evidence and there remains no evidence of it [Aristide's
involvement]," said attorney Ira Kurzban, who represents Aristide in Miami.
"They've been trying for two years. There is no case," he added.
Brillant is specifically accused by U.S. prosecutors of being involved in the
drug network controlled by convicted Haitian drug trafficker Sergo Edouard.
Brillant was paid $10,000 in one instance for agreeing to protect drug
shipments and got a share of $150,000 from another trafficker to provide
Although the Haitian police arrests were trumpeted as a major success in the
war on drugs by the Bush administration, a U.S. State Department report issued
earlier this year said that the flow of Colombian cocaine and other drugs
through Haiti continues virtually unchallenged.
The report said that with Haiti's 1,125 miles of virtually wide open coastline,
clandestine airstrips, uncontrolled seaports and police corruption it is
difficult for the Haitian government to stop the drug trade.
"Haitian drug trafficking organizations continue to operate with relative
impunity," said the March report. "Haiti remains an important transit country
for Colombian drug traffickers."
Freighters are most often used to transport the drugs directly from Haiti to
the United States, concealed in shipments of legitimate items such as cement or
in hidden compartments.
Aircraft are also used, and some drugs are driven over the border with the
Dominican Republic to be sent to Puerto Rico and elsewhere, the report says.
The other Haitian police officials who have pleaded guilty are Jean Nesly
Lucien, the former national police director; Rudy Therassan, a former commander
with the police, and Romaine Lestin, former police chief at the Port-au-Prince
Therassan was sentenced in July to 15 years in prison, while Lucien and Lestin
are scheduled for sentencing in November.