From the archives: Haiti drops lawsuit alleging Aristide theft

A corruption lawsuit against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was dropped by the government in a notice filed in Miami federal court

By Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, July 6, 2006
(March 4, 2012--This article below was originally published in section B of the Miami Herald, following months of front-page reports of corruption and drug trafficking allegations against Aristide. The article cannot be located in the online archives of the newspaper. Yet another new round of lurid 'corruption' accusations against Aristide is set off in today's Herald.)

Haiti's government has dropped its corruption lawsuit against ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a Miami federal court -- but left the door open to refile it later. The lawsuit, which accused the ousted politician of stealing ''tens of millions of dollars'' from the Haitian treasury and state-owned telephone company, was dropped by the government in a notice filed Monday with the court. It gave no reason for the decision.

The Haitian government reserved the legal right to refile the suit later against Aristide and others in his administration, which collapsed under pressure from an armed rebellion in 2004.

Lawyers for the interim Haitian government had asked a Miami federal judge for more time in March to pursue the suit, arguing they were unable to serve a summons on Aristide because he is living in exile in South Africa. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke granted the request. Then last month the Haitian government's lawyers gave Port-au-Prince officials until June 30 to decide on a legal course of action: pursue the suit now or drop it temporarily.

Former interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue has said the real cause of the delay was a fight over money with the Chicago law firm handling the civil case. The firm, Winston & Strawn, did not reply to requests for comment. Officials in the newly elected government of President René Préval, once an Aristide ally, could not be reached for comment.

Filed last November, the 74-page suit alleged Aristide ``abused his power and deceived and betrayed the Haitian people by directing and participating in ongoing and fraudulent schemes.''

The suit, which never led to any concrete actions, was based on two reports by Haitian government investigators that accused Aristide of illegally pumping millions of dollars in public funds into shell companies and into his private charities.