Head of Corruption Investigation Unit Arrested and Detained under Suspicious Circumstances
The National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) strongly questions the real motives behind the suspicious 22 May 2006 arrest and detention of Mr. Jean Yves Noël, Director-General of the Central Financial Enquiry Unit (UCREF), as ordered by Investigating Judge Jean Perez Paul.
According to Mr. Noël, he was summoned to the office of Justice Perez Paul at 4:10 pm on 22 May 2006. Upon arrival and without any questioning, Mr. Noël was immediately issued detention papers (allegedly dated 2 May 2006) and subsequently taken to the National Penitentiary where he is being detained on charges of the illegal arrest, kidnapping, and illegal confinement of Réginald Saint-Jean, a bailiff of the courts.
Established by the interim government in 2004, the Central Financial Enquiry Unit (UCREF) was created with the principal objective to investigate and report on allegations of corruption and money laundering (including drug trafficking cases) within the country, at a governmental level as well as at the level of civil society. The most cited results of UCREF?s work has been the publication of two (2) investigative reports in 2005, the first on the activities of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy published on 18 May 2005, and the second on the activities of the Aristide Presidency from February 2001 ? February 2004, published in July 2005. Each report identified serious activities of corruption which resulted in the draining of the public treasury, and subsequently identified those responsible for such activities. Numerous high-level officials in the Lavalas government have been implicated in the scandals.
In response to the reports, Justice Jean Ostrick Hercule, assigned to work on the corruption files in cooperation with UCREF, put a hold on several individual bank accounts in order to block further transfer of funds. On 5 December 2005, an illegal attempt was made, allegedly by Mr. Reginald Saint-Jean with the use of fake documentation, to have the hold on a number of these accounts lifted. The fraud was uncovered and the accounts remained frozen. No legal action was taken against Mr. Saint-Jean despite a public denunciation by the State Prosecutor?s Office.
In a strange turn of events, on 24 April 2006, Justice Hercule issued a ruling to lift the hold on the frozen accounts under the pretext that errors were made in the manner in which the case was prepared and submitted. All accounts are unfrozen and no public legal action as been taken against anyone identified as implicated in the corruption scandals. Then just one (1) month later, the Director General of UCREF, the instance responsible for uncovering the corruption, is arrested and sent to prison on kidnapping and illegal confinement charges.
RNDDH cannot help but ask a number of pressing questions: why the sudden change in behaviour of Justice Hercule after two (2) years of working on these particular corruption cases? In whose interest was Mr. Noël arrested? Was he not arrested simply for doing his job? What kind of judicial system arrests and detains those working to uncover corruption and grants immunity and protection to alleged thieves and criminals? Is this a sign that impunity and corruption will continue to prevail in the country, hidden under the guise of justice?
RNDDH is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr. Noël. During a visit with Mr. Noël at the National Penitentiary on 23 May 2006, RNDDH learned that he is sharing a cell with sixteen (16) other inmates, nine (9) of whom are being detained on drug trafficking charges, fortunately none of whom are being investigated by UCREF. However, Mr. Noël did indicate that he cell is in close proximity to three (3) other inmates whose cases UCREF has been involved in investigating and denouncing.
In the interests of justice, RNDDH calls upon judicial authorities to authorize the immediate release of Mr. Jean Yves Noël. Furthermore, RNDDH challenges judicial officials to act with integrity and respond to the mission with which they are charged by taking public action against those identified in the UCREF reports as being implicated in serious acts of corruption.