Former PM no-show at Haiti's PetroCaribe inquest

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — Lawyers representing former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe defended his decision not to appear before a court on Tuesday on the management and use of funds of the PetroCaribe programme.

Lamothe, along with Patrice Milfort, the head of the firm General Construction SA, had been ordered to appear before Clamé Ocnam Daméus, the Commissioner of the Government at the Court of First Instance of Port-au-Prince, to explain the management and use of PetroCaribe funds.

But in their October 23 letter, the lawyers for Lamothe said while they acknowledge receiving correspondence on the matter, they are “surprised by the total absence of delay of notice between the date of the summons and the date of the hearing requested.

“We are all the more surprised by such a measure from the Port-au-Prince Public Prosecutor's Office, since the Bar of Port-au-Prince has been observing since October 11, 2018, a work stoppage formally prohibiting lawyers from this Law Society the provision of all judicial services,” the lawyers wrote, adding that as a result, “it is impossible for Mr Lamothe to comply with your invitation without the assistance of his lawyers”.

Earlier this week, the Government said it is committed to having a “fair and equitable” trial for all those people implicated in the so-called “PetroCaribe” fraud scandal.

Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant said a foreign accounting and auditing firm is supervising a group of national experts examining all documents related to the matter.

“On the subject of the PetroCaribe file and to facilitate the search for the truth, an independent Commission for Truth Research, consisting of personalities of the civil society, will be created. It will be assisted by a foreign firm of accounting and auditing,” Céant told a news conference.

Last weekend President Jovenel Moise promised that no one “will escape justice”, as the leader of the radical Opposition “Pitit Dessalin” Party called for continued street demonstrations in protest at the illegal use of the PetroCaribe funds.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The alliance was launched on the 29th of June 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. In 2013, PetroCaribe agreed for links with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas to go beyond oil and promote economic cooperation.

Haitians have taken to the streets in recent days demanding an inquiry into the use of PetroCaribe funds.

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