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How First Lady Martine Moïse Got Mired in a $10.2M Corruption Scheme



In 2017, early into the presidency of Jovenel Moïse, the administration moved on a scheme to overhaul Haiti's identification card system by contracting with German company called Dermalog for $27 million [USD]. This was despite the fact that the current identification system in Haiti, which came at a cost of $50 million, was reviewed by experts and said to be sufficient to serve for several more years, with minor upgrades, and that the Dermalog system would expose risks to Haiti's already troubled electoral system.

How Dermalog came to be chosen to get this contract, according to the Director of the National Office of Identification (ONI) Jacques Elibert, was by the choice of First Lady Martine Moïse. In a December 17, 2018 hearing by a Senate commission, he said the First Lady was present with him in Cannes, France when she made the choice that it would be Dermalog. The declaration by Mr. Elibert so shook the lawmakers favorable to the administration that the hearing was turned into a closed session as they made efforts to convince the ONI director to return on his statement.

An Illegal Contract

The First Lady's involvement helps to explain why the Jovenel Moïse administration broke so many laws in order to sign the contract with Dermalog and withdraw state funds for it.

When the proposal to contract with Dermalog first reached the Supreme Court of Auditiors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) it was rejected. For a contract to be accepted, offerings must be made public. Companies must be given a chance to compete, provide the best offer of service, provide the best cost to the Haitian people. As well, an analysis must be undertaken for the efficiency and benefit review of the contract and its impact and service to the people of Haiti. Neither was done. The contract was rejected.

But not long after being reject, the Jovenel Moïse administration revised the proposal to contract with the same Dermalog by saying that it was a matter of public safety; as if to say it were an urgent need. In these cases, certain regulations can be skirted. In the case of a severe natural disaster, offerings and analysis reports have been deferred for immediate response, but this was not the case. The CSCCA, again, rejected it.

So the administration simply adopted its own resolution on April 30, 2017. It was signed by ONI Director Jacques Elibert and, most shockingly, First Lady Martine Moïse, to do business with, the same, Dermalog. The First Lady's signature is shocking because she holds no official public office, no official title or function and does not have the right to sign or engage the country in any matter. It violates penal codes dealing with usurpation of title that are subject to a prison sentence and a fine.

The Haitian government signed the contract with Dermalog and even incriminated itself in that very contract. A clause in the document states that the contract is not valid without "obtaining the favorable opinion of the Court of Auditors", which it never did.

At least $2 Million Unaccounted

As per the illegal contract, 30% of the project was paid up front. So an initial $8.2 million [USD] was withdrawn from the National Credit Bank (BNC) and paid to Dermalog. But not long after that, $2 million [USD] was withdrawn for the same purposes but was not traced to Dermalog.

The BNC confirmed the transfer of the money to an intermediary bank in New York that transferred the money to another bank in South Africa and that is where the trail stops. According to investigating Senators, the Ministry of the Economy and Finance is failing to collaborate in audits for tracing the money.

Opposition lawmakers are currently trying to stop the contract with Dermalog from being carried out.

Martine Moïse Denies Involvement

When the information of these crimes were released, it was not the First Lady, Martine Moïse, but the Office of the First Lady, that set out statements of denial to several news organizations.

The office said, "The reported facts are wrong and do not correspond with reality. During the official trips of the First Lady she is brought to meet other Haitian delegations also present for other reasons. In no case, did the First Lady of the Republic Martine Moïse sign or play her influence to sign a contract with the firm cited in the report of the Senate Anti-Corruption Commission."

The statement continued, "The communications office reminds everyone that during the first lady's travels, Ms. Martine Moïse is accompanied by her communication team and security agents. The first lady's trips abroad are made at the official invitation of the first ladies of other countries or international organizations."

Lastly adding, "During her travels, the first lady of the Republic talks with her counterparts to better coordinate her actions in the framework of her projects on early childhood, the fight against HIV AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."