Judge in Haiti issues arrest warrants accusing former presidents and prime ministers of corruption

By Associated Press, Jan. 8, 2024

A judge in Haiti has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 high-ranking officials accused of government corruption, including numerous former presidents and prime ministers.

The warrants, issued Friday and leaked on social media over the weekend, accuse the officials of misappropriation of funds or equipment related to Haiti’s National Equipment Center. The center is responsible for using heavy machinery for tasks such as building roads or clearing rubble, especially after earthquakes.

Among those named are former presidents Michel Martelly and Jocelerme Privert, as well as former prime ministers Laurent Lamothe, Jean-Michel Lapin, Evans Paul and Jean-Henry Céant.

None of those named in the arrest warrant could be immediately reached for comment, although Privert and Lapin issued statements denying the allegations.

No one has been arrested in the case. No further details about the investigation were immediately available.

Judge Al Duniel Dimanche has requested that those accused meet with him for questioning as the investigation continues. The judge could not be immediately reached for comment.

It is common for Haitian government officials accused in a criminal or civil case to ignore arrest warrants or requests for questioning and face no punishment as they accuse judges of political persecution. It is also rare for any high-ranking Haitian official to be charged with corruption, let alone face trial.

Local newspaper Le Nouvelliste obtained a copy of a statement issued by Lapin in which he says that he was never officially notified of the arrest warrant. He also said that at no time during his 32-year political career did he ever become involved with the National Equipment Center.

“I have also never requisitioned or requested the use of any equipment from this institution for my personal needs or for loved ones,” he said.

Privert issued a statement accusing the judge of acting maliciously and thoughtlessly. He also asserted that the Court of First Instance in the capital of Port-au-Prince “has no jurisdiction over the actions taken by presidents, prime ministers and ministers in the exercise of their functions.”

Former prime minister Claude Joseph, who is not named in the arrest warrant, said he met with the judge on Monday in case he could help with the case.

“No one, regardless of the position you held in the state, is above the law,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, ahead of the meeting. “If a judge decides to abuse his office by abusing justice, that is his business. I will not despise the justice of my country. I will be present.”

 

Posted Jan. 27, 2024