Prominent Haiti businessman arrested in corruption crackdown

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday October 16, 2013, CMC – Haitian law enforcement authorities have confirmed that a prominent businessman and three Customs officials had been arrested on corruption charges, bringing to nearly 100, the number of people either charged or jailed on corruption charges over the past few months.

Prosecutor Francisco Rene said businessman Philippe Victor Chatelin was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a corruption and contraband case that involved several Customs officials including a senior official, who had been arrested on Monday. The other two Custom officials were detained last weekend.

“We have arrested one important businessman and three Customs functionaries and we are looking for others involved with contraband and corruption. We are determined to fight corruption and I want to tell those who are involved with corruption to give it up, because they will be arrested,” said Rene.

At least 90 people, including government officials have already been detained or indicted for corruption over the past year, and several cases have been submitted to the prosecutor’s office or are being examined by anti-corruption officials.

The authorities said that 63 people have been indicted in the tuition-free education programme fund embezzlement case, while 27 other cases are linked to corruption within the public service.

Director General of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Antoine Atouriste, said many people now fear being arrested on corruption charges as had been the case in the past.

“Ninety four people have detained or indicted for corruption in the country. Haiti has done, in a short period of time, more than it has in over 200 years.

“But this is very far from being enough because there are so many other corrupt people who need to face justice, in order to deter other potential wrongdoers,” Atouriste said, urging legislators to approve of tough anticorruption law that had been submitted by his office.

The law has already been approved by the Senate, but the Lower House is yet to give the nod.

Kedler Augustin, a spokesman for Prime minister Laurent Lamothe, said “corruption has traditionally been common currency in the country’s public administration, but governments had failed to take necessary actions to tackle the scourge.”

The US State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti, Thomas C. Adams, acknowledged last week that the Haitian government has done more efforts to fight corruption than any of its predecessors.

But the comment has been criticised by the opposition that claim corruption has been practiced and condoned at the highest level within the administration of President Michel Martelly.

“This government is marred in corruption at the highest level. Anything they say they do to fight corruption is propaganda,” said Paul Denis, an outspoken voice of the opposition, who was part of the previous government. Several other opponents of the government have similar comments.

But Augustin called the accusations unfounded and only politically motivated.

“The fact is that this government is actively and concretely acting against corruption and political opponents are unable to show any evidence of corruption against any of the government leaders. The fact that had always been the case in the past, people tend to believe it is the same old thing,” he told the local Haitian website, HCCN.

Prime minister Lamothe recently announced that “all members of government and other key fund managers have, indiscriminately, submitted, after taking office, a declaration of their current assets to facilitate the fight against illicit enrichment and corruption”. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)