Originally: Two Haitian former police officials sentenced in drug cases

Haiti’s former national police commander, who was accused of protecting Colombian cocaine shipments through his destitute homeland, was sentenced to almost 15 years in prison.

Rudy Therassan pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court last April to conspiring to import at least 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States and laundering money. As part of the plea agreement, six other counts were dropped.

Therassan, who headed the Haitian national police from 2001 until 2003, must also forfeit $1.8 million (A?1.5 million) in assets, including two houses in Palm Beach County, Florida.

His sentence was reduced by about five years for giving prosecutors information about Haitian and Colombian traffickers who allegedly bribed him and others to move their drug shipments through the island.

Prosecutors said Therassan, 40, was the ringleader of corrupt Haitian law enforcement officials who helped traffickers unload tons of cocaine from planes allowed to land on a major highway near the Port-au-Prince airport.

Haiti’s former national police director, Jean Nesly Lucien, 44, also was sentenced Wednesday to nearly five years on a money-laundering conspiracy charge. He must forfeit $180,000 (A?149,000).

The cases were part of a 3-year-old probe that has resulted in the arrests of 14 Haitians who held top government and private jobs during the administration of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They include law enforcement officials, a former Haitian senator, a former presidential palace security chief and American Airlines’ former director of security at the Port-au-Prince airport.

Therassan is expected to be a witness in the trial of alleged Haitian drug trafficker Serge Edouard, which is scheduled to begin Monday.

In Lucien’s case, an informant told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents that Lucien and former Haitian anti-drug chief Evintz Brillant seized $450,000 in drug profits from a Colombian trafficker in 2002, returned $300,000, split the rest with other corrupt officers and agreed to split the take on future drug shipments through the airport in the Haitian capital.

Brillant and Romaine Lestin, former Port-au-Prince airport police commander, face trial in September.