PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) – He is not yet sworn-in and President-elect Jovenel Moise announced the National Carnival, already in its post-planning phase for Port-au-Prince, February 3rd, would be held in Les Cayes rather. The peculiarity of Mr. Moise’s decision to personally overhaul the event accounting for the participation of just 0.7% of the Haitian population, is making headlines in a nation facing a multitude of far more pressing issues.
“This if for reasons that we all know,” said Radio Kiskeya host and political commentator, Lilliane Pierre-Paul. This is the way many political actors and commentators are eluding to the smell of money laundering in the city of Les Cayes.
The last time carnival was held in Les Cayes, Sud Department, was five years ago under former President Michel Martelly, who tapped Jovenel Moise to replace him. That 2012 National Carnival came under accusations from prominent figures in Haitian society, including former First Lady Mirlande Manigat, that it had become a tool for money laundering.
A close friend of former President Martelly, Evinx Daniel, a hotelier and businessman went missing in December 2013. He was found with 50 kilos of marijuana and arrested earlier that year. He was abruptly released from jail after a phone call to the National Palace. The arresting government commissioner was relocated. Mr. Daniel played an executive role in that first carnival outside of Port-au-Prince in more than 30 years.
Disheartening is that the chatter surrounding the carnival change is at a time when the president-elect is under a full-fledged criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation was launched by a January 13, 2017 referral to Port-au-Prince’s district attorney by the Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF), which operates at an international level to investigate possible financial crimes, and the Unit Combating Corruption (ULCC), an institution working within the Haitian executive branch to formally file criminal complaints.
The two agencies submitted reports implying Jovenel Moise had participated in money laundering. Three came from the ULCC, one came out of a UCREF investigation. That investigation was launched in 2013 after a referral by the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) and Internal Revenue Service (DGI) of suspicious activity.