Haitian president-elect probed over graft allegations


Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 6

A judge questioned Haitian president-elect Jovenel Moise on Wednesday about a confidential report leaked during the election campaign that suggested he might have laundered money and received special treatment to get loans before the businessman ran for the nation’s highest political office.

Moise, who is scheduled to be inaugurated as Haiti’s next leader on Feb. 7, met with a Haitian judge in a closed-door session that lasted four hours.

Moise said he decided to go to the court voluntarily without an attorney because he has nothing to hide and respects the law.

Moise asserts all of his business dealings are above board. He blames rivals for manufacturing the allegations to “create instability” in the deeply divided nation with a long history of political tumult and damage his reputation before his swearing-in ceremony.

“Under my administration no one will be able to use the justice system to destroy someone,” Moise told reporters following the session with the judge of instruction, adding that he believed that institutional weakness was also a reason behind the report by the Haitian Central Financial Intelligence Unit and separate allegations that he received sweetheart loans from a state-owned bank.

Judge Bredy Fabien, who is also hearing testimony from others, has to decide whether there is evidence for a case to proceed or if the matter should be dismissed. It is a secretive process akin to a US grand jury that can take months.

Four opposition senators who revived questions about the report are pressing for it to be fully investigated before Moise’s oath-of-office ceremony.

The watchdog agency’s leaked report examines bank accounts held by Moise, his wife and his businesses from 2007 to 2013. Before being hand-picked in 2015 by former Haitian president Michel Martelly to become his political faction’s presidential candidate, Moise was an entrepreneur from northern Haiti who started an auto parts company, a water-distribution business and a public-private banana plantation launched in 2014 called Agritrans.

Among other things, the administrative report questions sizeable deposits into the accounts and purchases of 45 vehicles registered in Moise’s name.

The judge is also weighing allegations that the state-owned Haitian Popular Bank lent Moise cash without going through the normal procedures, which is a longstanding perk for politically connected Haitians.

Members of Moise’s Tet Kale party have suggested that the report was leaked at the height of campaigning for a presidential election at the urging of outgoing caretaker Haitian president Jocelerme Privert’s administration.

Privert’s government denies any involvement.

Moise easily won the election with 55 percent of the votes amid low turnout.

The first-round victory came more than a year after Moise topped an initial presidential vote that was eventually thrown out for suspicions of alleged fraud, leading to a lengthy period of political limbo.