28 July 2005
U.S. Jury Convicts Haitian of Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering
Conviction follows sentencing of former Haitian police officials
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- A federal jury in Miami has convicted a Haitian drug dealer, on all counts, for conspiracy to import more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and for money laundering.
Serge Edouard of Haiti faces a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He also faces the potential forfeiture of more than $15 million in assets. More than $5 million in assets already have been seized, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, in announcing Edouard's conviction July 21.
Edouard's sentencing is set for September 29.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Edouard was the head of a large-scale cocaine-smuggling organization that imported thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Haiti into Miami and New York. This smuggling organization returned millions of dollars in drug proceeds from the United States back to Edouard in Haiti. Edouard then laundered those drug proceeds in a variety of ways, such as by paying corrupt high-ranking Haitian officials to protect his drug activities.
Edouard's conviction follows the sentencing of two former Haitian police officials to jail terms for drug trafficking.
Rudy Therassan, Haiti's national police commander from 2001 to 2003, was convicted of protecting Colombian cocaine shipments through Haiti. On July 13, a Miami judge sentenced Therassan to almost 15 years in prison.
Under the sentence, Therassan also had to forfeit $1.8 million in assets.
News reports said Therassan led a ring of corrupt Haitian law enforcement officials who helped drug traffickers unload tons of cocaine from airplanes that were allowed to land on a major highway near the airport of Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince.
The reports said Therassan was arrested as part of an investigation that resulted in the arrests of 14 Haitians who held top government and private jobs during the administration of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who left office in February 2004.
Meanwhile, Haiti's former national police director, Jean Nesly Lucien, also was sentenced July 13 to nearly five years in prison after being convicted on a money-laundering conspiracy charge.
Lucien and a former Haitian anti-drug chief, Evintz Brillant, were convicted of seizing $450,000 in drug profits from a Colombian drug trafficker in 2002.
The U.S. State Department said in a recent report that Haiti's geographical position, weak institutions and extreme poverty have made it a key conduit for drug traffickers transporting cocaine from South America to the United States and, to a lesser degree, to Canada and Europe.
The State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report -- 2005, which covered the previous year, said Haiti's ongoing political and economic crises continued to grip the country in 2004, eclipsing the fight against drug trafficking.
The report, released in March, said Haiti remains highly susceptible to money laundering due to its weak legal system and pervasive corruption.
The report is available on the State Department Web site.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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