Aristide stole millions, says Haiti

By Time of article published Nov 4, 2005

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Miami - The Haitian interim government has accused former president Jean Bertrand Aristide of embezzling "millions of dollars" from public coffers and drug trafficking in a suit filed in a United States federal court in Miami, Florida.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday against the ex-president who is currently in exile in South Africa, said he looted the public treasury and laundered the illicit proceeds and diverted and stole revenues rightfully belonging to the Haitian national telephone company, according to court documents.

Aristide "looted, deceived and betrayed the Haitian people. He stole millions from the public treasury, thereby literally depriving the people of Haiti of the ability to feed themselves," the documents said.

Ira Kurzban, a lawyer for Aristide, immediately dismissed the move.

"It's a frivolous lawsuit brought by the Vichy government in Haiti," Kurzban said, adding it was part of a "disinformation campaign".

The lawsuit also alleges that part of the illicit money had been transferred to banks and businesses in the US, particularly in Florida, and that was the basis for its filing in Miami.

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said it was easier to bring the suit in US courts.

"We chose to bring the suit in the United States because the funds diverted by Mr Aristide went for the most part to that country," he said in Port-au-Prince.

The move comes a month before the first general elections scheduled in Haiti since Aristide fled the country in 2004, bowing to pressure from the United States, France and Canada as he faced an armed insurrection and large street protests. - Sapa-AFP

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