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Haiti: former presidents and prime ministers accused of corruption

The former interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Claude Joseph,   -  
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Odelyn Joseph/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


A Haitian judge has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 senior officials accused of government corruption, including many former presidents and prime ministers.

The warrants, issued on Friday and leaked on social media over the weekend, accuse the officials of misappropriating funds or equipment linked to Haiti's National Equipment Centre. This centre is responsible for using heavy machinery for tasks such as building roads or clearing rubble, particularly after earthquakes.

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

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

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

It is common for Haitian officials accused in criminal or civil cases to ignore arrest warrants or requests for questioning and incur no sanction, because they accuse judges of political persecution. It is also rare for a senior Haitian official to be accused of corruption, let alone put on trial.

Local newspaper Le Nouvelliste has obtained a copy of a statement by Mr Lapin in which he claims that he was never officially notified of the arrest warrant. He also said that at no time during his 32-year political career had he been involved with the National Equipment Centre.

"Nor have I ever requisitioned or requested the use of any equipment from this institution for my personal needs or those of my relatives", he said.Mr Privert issued a statement accusing the judge of having acted maliciously and thoughtlessly. 

He also stated that the Court of First Instance in the capital Port-au-Prince "does not have jurisdiction over acts committed by presidents, prime ministers and ministers in the exercise of their duties".

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

"No one, regardless of their position in the state, is above the law," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, before the meeting."If a judge decides to abuse his office by abusing justice, that's his business. I will not despise the justice of my country. I will be there".

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