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Reports allege widespread corruption under Haiti’s ousted president

Associated PressPORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Two new reports investigating corruption under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide accuse the ousted leader’s allies of defrauding Haiti’s government of $55 million (euro44 million).About US$50 million was allegedly embezzled from various state-run agencies between February 2001 and February 2004, according to the Commission for Administrative Investigations, an independent body that authored one of the reports.The 300-page report, compiled at the request of Haiti’s interim government, contains copies of bank statements, check duplicates and money transfer orders that the commission claims is proof of widespread corruption under Aristide.The funds originated from Haiti’s customs agency, municipal governments and other public offices in the impoverished country of eight million, the report said. The money was then transferred into the accounts of nonexistent local companies and private overseas bank accounts, it said.”Aristide’s power was based on corruption. Everything was done to misappropriate the state’s meager resources,” said Paul Denis, a former senator who heads the Commission for Administrative Investigations.An official from Aristide’s Lavalas Family Party denounced the report as false and politically motivated.”It’s more a character assassination piece than a serious accounting document,” Jonas Petit said by phone from the United States.Some US$19 million (euro15 million) in cheques from state-run companies were deposited into accounts at the Banque Populaire Haitienne between 2001 and 2003, the report said. Some cheques were signed by Aristide’s private secretary and officials from the Presidential Palace, it alleges.Another report for the interim government alleges US$5 million was embezzled from Aristide’s Foundation for Democracy and other groups linked to the former president, who was toppled in a February 2004 revolt.The report by the state-run Central Unit for Economic and Financial Investigations says the alleged fraud took place between 2001 and 2004, citing bank statements and other financial data.Both reports were obtained by The Associated Press last week and are being reviewed by Haiti’s judiciary, which has three months to decide whether to prosecute suspects.Neither report specifically names Aristide as a beneficiary of the alleged fraud, although Haiti’s interim government has accused him of involvement in widespread corruption and mismanagement of state funds.Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa, has denied any wrongdoing.Haiti tied with Bangladesh as having the highest level of corruption in Transparency International’s 2004 corruption perception index.

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