Originally: Court Papers Allege Corruption In Haiti
Miami · New details of corruption were spelled out in court papers made public Tuesday as a seventh person faced charges in the U.S. government?s investigation of the cocaine trafficking that flourished under former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court included allegations that a Haitian judge was paid $360,000 to let a cocaine smuggler out of jail after a corrupt senator took protection money, then framed the smuggler when the payoffs stopped.
Court papers say Jean Salim Batrony, 52, paid off Aristide?s staunch political ally, Jean-Marie Fourel Celestin. In return, Celestin allegedly protected his drug business. Batrony and Celestin were longtime friends, according to an affidavit by Noble Harrison, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent based in Fort Lauderdale.
Celestin, 52, a former senator and leader of the ruling Lavalas party, also faces cocaine conspiracy charges in Miami. He and two Haitian police officials appeared briefly in federal court on Tuesday.
The document states that Batrony smuggled cocaine from Colombia to Haiti on go-fast boats, operating primarily in the Jacmel area on the southern coast, where Celestin allegedly controlled the local police. When Batrony stopped paying Celestin, the affidavit states, the senator tipped police, who searched his house and seized 58 kilograms of cocaine in 2002. Batrony told the DEA that the cocaine came from Celestin.
Four informants helped the DEA build the case, according to court documents. One described meetings at which Batrony made cash payments to the senator. Another informant told agents that Batrony was released early from prison after his wife paid a $360,000 bribe to “the presiding judge,” the document states.
The affidavit did not name the judge. But according to news media accounts, Judge Josiard Agnant dismissed the drug charge, which led to his suspension amid controversy. He was reinstated after a strike by Haiti?s judges brought the justice system to a standstill.
About $200,000 in cash for the alleged bribe came from an informant who has been identified during hearings as high-profile cocaine dealer Beaudouin “Jacques” Ketant, 43.
Ketant is cooperating, hoping to shorten his 30-year sentence in a 1997 cocaine and money laundering case.
Celestin?s case was postponed Tuesday, as were hearings for former police narcotics officials Rudy Therassan, 39, and Evintz Brillant, 33.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys told U.S. Magistrate Andrea Simonton they sought the delays in the “interest of justice” because the defendants continue to “negotiate” with prosecutors.
The trial for Therassan and Brillant is tentatively set for September. The others are former palace security chief Oriel Jean, 39 ; Haitian National Police Director Jean Nesly Lucien, 43 ; and SWAT unit director Romaine Lestin, 35.
Ann W. O?Neill