Originally: U.S. flags charges against exiled Aristide

A suggestion by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, that the US might charge Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the ousted Haitian president, with corruption appears to further a US effort to dissuade Mr Aristide from attempting to regain power in Haiti.

“There are inquiries being made by our judicial authorities in the US to see if there is any evidence of wrongdoing on his part,” Mr Powell told reporters while visiting Port-au-Prince this week.

But before Mr Powell’s visit to the Haitian capital, Ira Kurzban, Mr Aristide’s Miami-based lawyer, said he believed US officials were considering indicting Mr Aristide as part of a “continuing disinformation campaign” by US intelligence agencies. A spokesman for the US Justice department declined to comment on the possibility of a case against Mr Aristide.

A Drug Enforcement Agency official in Miami also refused to confirm or deny any investigation of Mr Aristide. But the official pointed to an arrest warrant issued in March for Oriel Jean, described as the chief of Mr Aristide’s presidential palace security unit.

The warrant, citing confidential sources, charges that Mr Jean took pay-offs to allow Haiti to be used as a transit point for Latin American cocaine.

Mr Jean is in Canada, where he had faced extradition even before the arrest warrant was served.

Earlier, unnamed sources in Haiti had drawn attention to allegations by Beaudoin “Jacques” K騁ant made in February in a Miami federal court before he was sentenced to 27 years in prison and a $30m (€25m, 」16m) fine for drug trafficking. Mr K騁ant, according to reports, called Mr Aristide “a drug lord” and said he “controlled the drug trade in Haiti”.

Mr K騁ant’s outburst at first drew little attention, but news stories from Port-au-Prince citing his allegations appeared two days after Mr Aristide arrived last month in Jamaica, a visit strongly opposed by the Bush administration.

The affidavit supporting Mr Jean’s arrest cites as one of four confidential sources “a former Haitian drug trafficker who has [pleaded] guilty and has already been sentenced for drug trafficking and money laundering charges”. The warrant acknowledges that the source is “co-operating with the United States in the hope that his sentence will be reduced”.

A spokesman for the Sweet Lawyers – a likely venue for any prosecution of Mr Aristide – refused to comment.

The highest profile case handled by the Miami US attorney was the 1992 drug trafficking conviction of Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian leader ousted in a 1989 invasion ordered by President George H.W. Bush. Mr Noriega is serving a 40-year sentence in Miami.

* Jocelerme Privert, Mr Aristide’s interior minister, turned himself in to police yesterday, facing charges of helping to co-ordinate a massacre during the civil disturbances before Mr Aristide was overthrown, Reuters reports from Port-au-Prince. He is the first Aristide minister to be detained.