PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Investigators appointed by Haiti’s interim government accused ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of misusing up to $50 million in public funds, much of it believed to have been embezzled.
The head of the Administrative Inquiry Commission, Paul Denis, said a good deal of the money ended up in the personal bank accounts of close collaborators of Aristide, who fled Haiti in February 2004 after an armed revolt and under U.S. and French pressure to quit.
“From February 2001 to February 2003, about $50 million was used without justification, including $19 million that went through (president) Aristide’s secretariat to land in private bank accounts,” Denis told Reuters on Tuesday.
Denis said his inquiry found that the Aristide government routinely misappropriated millions of dollars in customs payments by companies importing products into Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
He said a rice importer, Chako, paid up to $5 million in customs fees to the head of the government-run bank, Banque Populaire Haitienne (Haitian Popular Bank), instead of to the customs agency.
“Aristide’s office made sure that the amount was not paid to customs authorities, but directly to . . . the head of Haiti’s popular bank, appointed by Aristide,” said Denis. He added that Chako’s chief executive officer, Joseph Dieuseul, had confirmed that and said he always paid in cash.