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29 mai 2004

A former commander with the Haitian National Police Brigade was charged Friday in a federal grand jury indictment with eight counts of cocaine conspiracy and money laundering.

Rudy Therassan, 39, is the first former Haitian government official indicted in a grand jury’s inquiry into drugs, money and corruption under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He is being held without bail in Miami.

Three other former police officials also are being held without bail, charged in criminal complaints with accepting money from traffickers to protect loads of cocaine passing through Haiti on the way to the United States.

If convicted, Therassan could be stripped of his allegedly ill-gotten fortune and sent to a U.S. prison for the rest of his life. The indictment includes an asset-forfeiture count seeking nearly $1.9 million.

Among the assets the U.S. government is seeking are two homes in Wellington, Palm Beach County ; 20 bank accounts in the United States, Haiti and the Dominican Republic ; half a dozen certificates of deposit and two brokerage accounts.

The government also is looking to seize a 2004 Toyota Corolla, a 42-inch flat plasma screen television, and jewelry including Rolex and Fendi watches.

Therassan was arrested May 14 after being stopped on the Palmetto Expressway. A criminal complaint and accompanying DEA affidavit alleged he pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in protection money paid by cocaine traffickers.

Julio LaRosa, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, followed the paper trail that led to the money laundering counts, IRS spokeswoman Ellie Michaud said.

Therassan headed investigations for the Haitian national police from 2001 until last August, according to documents previously filed in federal court in Miami.

He is among four high-ranking Haitian law enforcement officers arrested for drug trafficking since Aristide left the country in February.

The others are Oriel Jean, Aristide’s former head of palace security ; Jean Nesly Lucien, former director-general of the national police, and Evintz Brillant, former chief of narcotics for the national police.

Jean is said to be cooperating with federal agents. Lucien and Brillant were taken into custody this week.

According to an affidavit previously filed by DEA agent Noble Harrison, four confidential sources helped Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Weinstein and Lynn Kirkpatrick build a case linking Therassan to cocaine trafficking, protection payoffs, and the Haitian government-ordered murder of drug lord Hector Ketant.

The informants include Jean and Ketant’s brother, high-living cocaine trafficker Beaudouin « Jacques » Ketant, who is trying to shorten a 27-year sentence he received just four days before Aristide was forced out of Haiti.

Jean, 39, was one of Aristide’s most trusted aides. He was arrested in Toronto, brought to Miami, and charged with drug trafficking in March.

One informant told agents he saw Therassan shoot Hector Ketant to death, the affidavit said. Therassan, who was shot in the shoulder, claimed he fired in self-defense.

With DEA assistance, Therassan arrived in the United States in April 2003. Although he provided some information, the DEA says he was never an officially documented witness or informant.

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