The National Palace, a Den of Corruption

By Yves Pierre-Louis – Haiti Liberte

A string of corruption scandals are erupting at Haiti’s Presidential Palace, directly involving President Martelly and his wife Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, and his son, Olivier Martelly. The president is evidently trying to legalize a culture of bribery that takes several forms: nepotism, embezzlement, bribery and offers of all kinds, either involving his family or to get favors from established authorities in return for performing criminal acts.

Following a legal suit filed by lawyer Newton Saint-Juste against wife Sophia Martelly and son Olivier Martelly, two presidential decrees were published in Le Moniteur, the official government journal.

The first, dated Jan. 24, 2012, Supplement No. 10, established the National Commission for the Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition (COLFAM) and the program “Aba grangou” (Down with Hunger!). Both projects are directed by Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, are valued at hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, and are included in a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers. The second decree dated Jun. 15, 2012, in Le Moniteur No. 94, creating the Commission to Support the Coordination of Infrastructures for Sports and the Accompaniment of Haitian Youth (CACISAJH) run by his son Olivier Martelly. In both cases, these are projects with which the Social Affairs Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry respectively should deal.

A legal brief filed by lawyer Newton Saint-Juste seeks an injunction to immediately stop President Martelly’s decrees because they are “contrary to the Constitution, laws and general principles of law, and constitute attempts to undermine the stability of republican institutions and a duplication which serves as an excuse to squander the scarce funds in the public treasury belonging to all Haitians,” he wrote. The summons was served on President Martelly. Saint-Juste also denounced the nepotism of these acts.

In addition to this scandal rocking the Martelly family, the special advisor to President Martelly at the National Palace, the former senator from South East Joseph Lambert, revealed all the shenanigans going on behind-the-scenes in statements over the airwaves of radio stations around the capital. He layed out a bribery scheme between President Martelly and President of the Chamber of Deputies, Levaillant Louis Jeune. According to Lambert, the Vice President of the National Assembly, Levaillant, received $15,000 and an armored car from President Martelly in exchange for appointing, outside the rules and with the connivance of the President of the National Assembly Desras Simon Dieuseul, the legislature’s three representatives to the so-called “Permanent” Electoral Council. 

“Levaillant received $15,000 U.S. dollars and armored vehicle at the National Palace, and he signed for it,” Lambert said. “Levaillant came to the national palace to 7 a.m. to get the money. We wanted to give it in [the Haitian currency] gourdes, but he said no, it is [U.S.] dollars he wants it. This is not a grant, because there is a form to fill out to get a grant. He took the U.S. $15,000.”

If this is not a grant, then it is corruption, where President Martelly is the briber and Levaillant the bribee. Corruption is a criminal offense which has serious consequence of the economic and social life of the Haitian people. It is “criminal conduct when one solicits, approves or receives offers, promises, gifts or presents for the accomplishment of or obtaining favor for personal gain,” according to the Dalloz Law Dictionary.

In response, Levaillant Louis Jeune confirmed that he received $10,000 from the National Palace, but claimed it was to prepare for the visit of President Martelly to the Artibonite Valley town of Desdunes for its annual patron saint’s festival, saying President Martelly kept $5,000 for his son T. Micky, on the pretext that he and his musical band would play well. 

“Joseph Lambert wants to destroy Parliament,” Levaillant said.

Senator Moïse Jean Charles already denounced this latest corruption scandal, predicting that the presidents of the two houses of Parliament, Simon Desras Dieuseul and Levaillant Louis Jeune, would each receive a large amount of money and an armored car to persuade them to name legislative representatives to the highly contested “Permanent” Electoral Council in defiance of the National Assembly. The National Assembly successfully turned back – for now – the completely illegal maneuver by Martelly, Louis Jeune, and Dieuseul to end-run the Parliament.

During a show Sep. 5, 2012 radio broadcast in the capital, the Senator of Nippes, Jean William Jeanty said: “Every parliamentarian has his price.” Whether you are president, secretary, quaestor, or chairperson, each has their price in Parliament, he said.

According to the former president of the lower house, Saurel Jacinthe, the legislative and judicial branches are just following the example set by the President of the Republic by asking that the other presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and the Supreme Court also have armored vehicles.

Lambert rejected this statement: “The car belongs to the National Palace,” he said. “Levaillant Louis Jeune has 24 hours to return the car, otherwise I will give my resignation, and I nobody will be able to convince me to come back.”

These are just the latest corruption scandals to shake the highest echelons of the state. Recently, the Supreme Court President Anel Alexis Joseph basically appointed himself president of the Higher Council of the Judiciary (Supreme Council) in a brazen and complete violation of the law. Now the two presidents of Parliament have been revealed engaging in all kinds of maneuvers to try to appoint parliamentary representatives to Martelly’s illegal and unilaterally formed “Permanent” Electoral Council. And we’re just seeing the beginning of how Martelly family members are embroiled in a nasty case of corruption under the pretext of carrying out social work with state funds. Corruption has become the hallmark of the Tèt Kale (headlong) government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

Levaillant Louis-Jeune (left) and Desras Simon Dieuseul (right) are implicated in the latest corruption scandal rocking the Haitian government.