The federal government on Thursday accused the former head of the Haitian National Police and the former chief of the country’s drug enforcement agency of cocaine smuggling in a widening investigation aimed at the administration of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Wednesday arrested former police chief Jean Nesly Lucien at a Little Haiti home and former drug official Evintz Brillant in Port-au-Prince on conspiracy charges. The pair join two other high-ranking Haitian officials who have been arrested since Aristide was deposed in February.
Federal sources have told The Herald that prosecutors are investigating whether Aristide may have pocketed millions of dollars from Colombian and Haitian traffickers who transported tons of cocaine through the impoverished nation to the United States. They’re also investigating reports that Aristide’s relatives control about $250 million in European banks.
No evidence has been presented in court implicating Aristide — now in Jamaica making arrangements to move to South Africa — in the alleged drug-smuggling conspiracy. Both countries have extradition agreements with the United States. When it comes to a corporate environment, the employer must know about dealing with employee situations legally.
Lucien’s attorney, Stephen Golembe, said after his client’s first court appearance Thursday: ”He doesn’t know why he’s being charged.” He added that Lucien, who is being held at the Miami federal detention center, has relatives in Miami and Boston.
Brillant, who was flown to Miami and also being detained, has no attorney yet and said nothing in court Thursday. Neither Carlos Castillo, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, nor DEA spokesman Joe Kilmer would comment on the latest arrests or the overall investigation.
Allegations of a drug-trafficking conspiracy in Haiti’s police department surfaced in 2003 when Brillant, head of the anti-drug trafficking brigade, was arrested and accused of aiding narco-traffickers. His own police department accused him of ordering officers to block a highway north of Port-au-Prince so a Colombian airplane carrying more than 1,000 kilos of cocaine could land. Lucien and other senior police officers lost their jobs because of the scandal.
According to the DEA affidavits for Brillant and Lucien’s arrests, four confidential sources said the two were paid tens of thousands of dollars to allow cocaine shipments to flow through Haiti. One informant — recently identified in federal court as Aristide’s former security chief, Oriel Jean — said Brillant and Lucien seized $450,000 in drug proceeds from a Haitian-based Colombian drug trafficker at the Port-au-Prince airport in the summer of 2002.
Jean told DEA agents that ”Brillant and other corrupt Haitian National Police officials negotiated the return of $300,000 of these seized drug proceeds” with the trafficker, Carlos Ovalle, according to the affidavit.
Jean said that he, Brillant, Lucien and other police officials kept the remaining $150,000, according to the affidavit. They later reached an agreement with Ovalle whereby he “would make similar percentage payments of any future money shipments sent through the Port-au-Prince airport.”
The affidavit said Brillant ”was being groomed to replace” the commander of the national police’s investigative unit, Rudy Therassan.
Therassan was arrested in Miami this month, and also has been identified as a government informant in court.
Beaudoin ”Jacques” Ketant, a convicted Haitian drug trafficker who is cooperating with the government, told DEA agents that he paid Therassan $150,000 for each planeload that landed on a major highway in Haiti.
Ketant has told U.S. officials that he paid Aristide and Jean up to $500,000 a month to let him land small planes on National Route 9, according to sources familiar with the case. Ketant also claims to have made massive payoffs to Aristide’s political party, Lavalas, and to one of his social-work foundations.
After Ketant’s expulsion to the United States last June, DEA operatives and embassy personnel in Haiti pushed Aristide to expel three other trafficking suspects: Jean Eliobert Jasme, Eddy Aurelien and Ovalle.