Originally: Brawl at elite American school leads to Haitian fugitive’s arrest

For six years, fugitive Jacques Beaudoin Ketant lived the good life, using alleged drug proceeds to buy fancy cars, a mansion and a highbrow education for his children.

But a recent brawl at his son’s elite private school prompted Ketant’s expulsion to the United States, where he was indicted in 1997 on charges of heading a drug network that smuggled cocaine into the United States.

“He’s a significant trafficker,” Matt Dates, a special counsel for public affairs at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami, said Friday.

In the five-count indictment for money-laundering and drug smuggling, U.S. law enforcement agents described an expansive drug web with Ketant arranging for drug couriers to transport cocaine from Central and South America into the United States, sometimes using Haiti as a transshipment point.

After setting up part of the operation in Miami, Ketant left in disguise for Haiti in 1996, the indictment said.

He’s lived here since, flaunting his wealth in a hilltop mansion protected by security cameras that overlooks Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. He was regularly seen driving his black Hummer and Mercedes all-terrain vehicle.

The public appearances remained steady even after his face flashed across U.S. television screens in 2001 during a segment on America’s Most Wanted.

Last year, Ketant, now 40, helped build a grandstand in front of the presidential National Palace for carnival and took part in the festivities.

It’s unclear why, given his ostentatious lifestyle, U.S. officials did not capture him before. Both Dates, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Joe Kilmer in Miami, declined to comment.

But relations between the United States and Haiti have been turbulent since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed.

Since then, some U.S. legislators have accused senior Haitian government officials and police officers of involvement in drug trafficking.

Ketant’s downfall began with a fracas last month at Union School, whose students include children of government ministers and U.S. and other diplomats.

At a school party, Ketant’s nephew tried to woo a girl who rejected his advances. Ketant’s son and nephew then allegedly beat up the rival and shoved him in the trunk of a car, a parent said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The junior Ketants were stopped at the school gate by a security guard who made them free the boy, the parent said.

The principal, who has refused all comment, expelled the boys, the parent said. When she refused to allow them back, Ketant allegedly showed up with a throng of bodyguards and threatened the principal and an American teacher who was photographing the scene, the parent said.

“In view of the perceived breakdown of security, the U.S. Embassy quickly offered the school a couple of our local security guards for a few days,” said embassy spokeswoman Judith Trunzo.

Haitian authorities ordered Ketant’s expulsion, Dates said. U.S. authorities took him into custody Tuesday evening and brought him to Miami.

“We had arrest warrants on Ketant before the (school) incident,” Trunzo said, but also would not say why he was not arrested before.

Trunzo said there has been no letup in the flow of drugs through Haiti. Some 8 percent of cocaine and 15 percent of all drugs transported to the United States last year come through Haiti, she said.

In February, charging Aristide’s government had not cooperated in the fight against drugs, the United States canceled at least 12 tourist visas of lawmakers and top police officials.

If convicted, Ketant faces more than 20 years in prison.