(Port-au-Prince) A Haitian judge has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 senior officials accused of government corruption, including several former presidents and prime ministers.
The arrest warrants, issued on Friday and revealed on social media over the weekend, accuse these officials of embezzling funds or equipment linked to the National Equipment Center in Haiti.
This center is responsible for using heavy machinery for tasks such as building roads or removing rubble, especially after an earthquake.
Among those targeted by the arrest warrants are former presidents Michel Martelly and Gusierme Prévert, as well as former prime ministers Laurent Lamothe, Jean-Michel Lapin, Evans-Paul and Jean-Henri Saint. Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who was in power when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July 2021, is also charged.
None of the people named in the arrest warrants could immediately be reached for comment, although Messrs. Prévert, Lapine and Joseph issued statements denying the allegations.
No arrests have been made in this case.
The judge requests that his defendants meet for questioning while the investigation continues, but only Claude Joseph has appeared in court so far.
It is common for Haitian government officials accused in a criminal or civil case to systematically ignore arrest warrants or interrogation requests. Hence, they are not subjected to any punishment, because they accuse the judges of political persecution.
It is also rare for a high-ranking Haitian official to be accused of corruption, let alone prosecuted for this crime.
The local newspaper The Novelist I obtained a copy of a press release published by former Prime Minister Jean-Michel Lapin in which he announced that he had never been officially informed of the arrest warrant. He also said that at no point in his 32-year political career had he been involved in the National Facilities Centre.
For his part, former President Jocelerme Privert issued a statement accusing the judge of acting in a malicious and reckless manner. It also asserts that the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, “has no jurisdiction over actions taken by presidents, prime ministers and ministers in the exercise of their duties.”
Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph wrote on Monday on the X platform that he would meet the judge, even if he rejected any association with the National Center for Equipment.
“No one, regardless of his position in the state, is above the law,” he wrote. “If a judge decides to abuse his position by abusing justice, that is his job. I will not disdain my justice. I will. »
No further details about the investigation were immediately available.
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