PETIONVILLE, HAITI – Former Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly speaking with reckless indifference and ingratiating candor admitted for the first time that officials in his government had embezzled nearly 1.3 billion dollars of the PetroCaribe Fund.
Martelly aka “Sweet Micky,” a former performer turned politician was elected president of Haiti after the devastating earthquake of January 2010 that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and left nearly a million homeless. Without the help and intervention of former US first lady Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state under the Obama administration, it is doubtful whether Martelly would have been elected president.
The Petrocaribe fund has been the subject of several investigations. The first, conducted by Senator Youri Latortue, the then president of the Haitian senate concluded that several former and present government officials had embezzled millions of dollars. Among the officials are former prime ministers  Jean-Max Bellerive, and several ministers, including Wilson Laleau, the current chief of staff of current president  Jovenel Moise.
The Petrocaribe fund was established according to an agreement between Venezuela and Haiti.  Beginning in 2006, the Venezuelan government had agreed to provide Haiti with petrol products at below market price, in return Haiti would sell the products in the local market at market value.  The agreement stipulates that Haiti would pay 2% of the balance over a twenty-five-year period. The agreement allowed the Haitian government to accumulate nearly 3.2 billion dollars. Some 1.1 billion was paid to Venezuela; the remaining 2.1 billion vanished into the pockets of over two dozen Haitian officials.  Money that should have been used for social programs such as education, healthcare, and job creation to improve the lives of every day Haitians. Instead, every government that came to power from 2006 to 2016 (Preval to Martelly) used the money to enrich themselves.
The PetroCaribe scheme was rather simple. Government ministers with pecuniary interests in several companies would grant no-bid contracts to the companies in return for kickbacks. In 2012, Mr. Laleau approved the operation of a Florida company in which he held interests. The Company existed in name only with a PO Box in Fort Lauderdale. The company received several multi-million dollar no-bid contracts for construction work that were never meant to be undertaken much less started and completed. According to the Haitian Senate report, Wilson Laleau among others was a partner in the company. The company received nearly 20 million dollars’ worth of contracts. Documents from the Florida Department of Corporations show that the company was incorporated just months before it received the contracts.  To add insult to injury, none of the work the companies were paid for was completed. In most cases, the companies took the money, paid the kickback to the minister who facilitated the contract and went on their merry way.
To this day, though this newspaper had written extensively about the Petrocaribe scheme,  not one single individual  responsible for the theft of the PetroCaribe fund had been arrested, indicted or otherwise made accountable for their actions. Recently, the Haitian attorney General began an investigation into the PetroCaribe scheme, and as we expected, every former minister is now pointing fingers at the other. President Martelly who for years has denied that members of his administration embezzled millions of dollars finally admitted that some government officials did engage in corruption.
The embezzlement of the Petrocaribe fund could not have been possible without President Martelly and his former prime ministers. In Haiti, corruption is a top-down process.  Ministers who engage in corruption always do so at the blessing of the President and the prime minister who received his or her part of the loot. Martelly’s statement that government officials stole from the PetroCaribe fund is an admission against interest that should be given serious consideration.  The question is when did the president know that underlings were engaged in corruption? If he knew while in office which undoubtedly, he knew, why did he not do something about it? Could it be that Martelly was part of the scheme and that he was receiving money from the scheme?
The  Latortue report did not implicate Martelly, his wife Sophia, or his elder son Olivier, a grave mistake, because the evidence leads to Martelly and his wife’s participation allegedly in the PetroCaribe embezzlement directly or through proxies such as Ann Valérie Timothée Milfort, who was his chief of staff. Valerie’s husband, Patrice Timothe’s company, received nearly 12 million dollars worth of a construction contract, and no construction has ever been built.
Omega Staff Writers
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