Friday, July 29, 2005

The Emperor Has No Clothes

How Aristide & Co. plundered the Haitian Treasury; Dark clouds on the Alexandre-Latortue government

The publication this week of the preliminary findings
of the "Commission d'EnquĂȘte Administrative" (CEA),
headed by former Senator Paul Denis, has uncovered a
disturbing pattern of systematic looting of the
Treasury during the Jean-Bertrand Aristide presidency.
We can only salute what is probably a first in Haitian
history:

a) the commission did its work in secrecy and there
were no leaks until the publication of the preliminary
report;
b) the quality of the investigation is extremely good;
c) the report includes TRANSCRIPTS of key interviews
with a number of former high level Lavalas dignitaries
(probably a first in Haitian history)
d) the report also includes copies of correspondence,
extensive documentation of financial shenanigans, etc.

What is striking to any observer is the sheer
magnitude of the embezzlement concocted by Aristide
and his cronies and the large number of individuals
involved, starting with Aristide himself. Former
Lavalas congressmen, ministers, and a number of
Aristide relatives as well as businessmen figure on
the long list of beneficiaries and/or thieves. Coming
on the heels of the UCREF report on the embezzlement
at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy and a number
of associated shell companies, a clearer picture of
the Aristide-directed looting of public funds has
emerged.

Readers can access key elements of the report (in
French) at the following websites:

http://www.ntsnews.com/bpm/commission_enquete.htm
http://www.ntsnews.com/bpm/commission_enquete_part_II.htm
http://www.ntsnews.com/bpm/commission_enquete_part_III.htm
http://www.ntsnews.com/bpm/commission_enquete_contrats.htm

The reports speak for themselves. I would like to draw
your attention to a number of intriguing points:

Cooperation of Yvon Neptune

In what is sure to be a shock for many, former Prime
Minister Yvon Neptune agreed to answer the questions
of the investigators. And what an interview that was!
We learn that:

1. Yvon Neptune had no real power as prime minister;
he was deathly afraid of Finance Minister Faubert
Gustave who was, in his words, a "super-minister" and
who called the shots on all expenses, legitimate or
illegal, that were undertaken on behalf of Aristide;

2. Neptune recognizes that Oriel Jean, Aristide's
former security chief now in custody in the US on
charges of drug smuggling, was receiving donations
routinely from the Prime Minister's office "on the
basis of his needs" (Neptune's own words.)

3. The much touted "Alpha Economique" plan of Aristide
existed in name only.

The interview reveals that Neptune was certainly not
the administrator that he was cracked up to be. We
discover an average to below-average manager of people
who had some integrity (let's call a spade a spade)
but who certainly decided to roll over and let
Aristide run roughshod over him. Quite a pitiful
interview in the end as it demonstrated that Neptune
was completely out of his league and should have
remained the good architect that he was.

While Aristide is in South Africa enjoying his
millions and managing his little guerilla warfare,
poor Neptune is left holding the bag.

Cooperation of Jean-Jacques Valentin

Another shocker! For many years, Jean-Jacques Valentin
was Aristide's man at Customs, where he oversaw a
large bureaucracy which received the majority of the
government's revenues. Valentin described very
eloquently the pattern of embezzlement and deceit that
Aristide and Faubert Gustave established to get around
administrative procedures and help their cronies
circumvent customs duties. Two of the biggest
beneficiaries of the scheme were none other than Lesly
Lavelanet, brother-in-law of Aristide, who owes
Customs over US$1 million in unpaid customs duties and
Dieuseul Tchokanté Joseph, a staples importer, who
became a front man for Lavelanet as well as other rice
importers associated to Aristide.

Finally, we must stress that the publication of this
preliminary report has ruffled many feathers within
the Alexandre-Latortue government. Paul Denis stated
that he received minimal cooperation from the National
Palace. That is not surprising at all. The current
chief of staff, Michel Brunache, has close links with
Gladys Lauture, a former "economic advisor" to
Aristide who masterminded a number of embezzlement
schemes. Brunache has actually blocked the
investigations into the practices at the Palace for
two reasons:

1. to protect Gladys Lauture, and by extension
Brunache's former boss, attorney Gary Lissade, who is
also implicated in a number of sordid schemes in the
CEA/Paul Denis report;

2. to prevent investigators from uncovering Brunache's
embezzlement scheme for the benefit of his
father-in-law, Boniface Alexandre, and his own pockets
of course. Brunache has continued the practice first
established by Aristide at the National Palace, which
call for minimal supervision and documentation (if at
all) of expenditures.

We must be vigilant. Aristide is the past, and we need
to expose him for what he was: a vulgar, blood-thirsty
criminal who used the poor of Haiti to wage his war of
hatred and enrich himself at the sam etime. But we
also need to focus on the present and start
investigating the crooked deals of the current
administration. There are a few, and they are being
perpetrated by people close to the current President
and Prime Minister.

We must also start asking the hard questions:

1. Why is Mr. Latortue's district attorney
("commissaire du gouvernment") so weak and ineffective?
2. Why are the current "managers" of the National
Palace and Teleco blocking the Paul Denis/CEA
investigation?
3. When will Latortue get rid of the bad apples that
are completely spoiling his current leadership? Or is
he involved?

Haiti needs new leadership and a new beginning. The
truth will set us all free ... finally.

Jean-Claude Jasmin