Accused by judges, Haitian president denies corruption allegations

Port-au-Prince (AFP) –


Haitian President Jovenel Moise on Wednesday denied allegations that he was at the center of an embezzlement scheme spanning the last decade.

"I'm looking you in the eye today to say: your president, whom you voted for, is not guilty of corruption," Moise told a press conference.

"The people who mishandled and misused state funds will be brought to justice in a fair, equitable trial without political persecution," he added.

The judges of Haiti's High Court of Auditors said in a voluminous report at the end of May that Moise was at the center of an embezzlement scheme that siphoned off Venezuelan aid money intended for road repairs, laying out what they said was a litany of examples of corruption and mismanagement.

The magistrates said they discovered, for example, that in 2014 Haitian authorities signed contracts with two different companies -- Agritrans and Betexs -- for the same road-repair project. The two turned out to have the same tax registration number and the same personnel.

Before he came to power in 2017, Moise headed Agritrans, which received more than 33 million gourdes ($700,000 at the time) to do the road work, though the company in principle did nothing but grow bananas.

Agritrans received an advance two months before the road-repair contract was signed, leading the magistrates to believe "there was collusion, favoritism and embezzlement."

"To those who think it's alright to criticize the company I led before being president, before being a candidate, I say that justice is doing its work. The business is there and all the paperwork exists," Moise responded Wednesday.

Several thousand demonstrators marched through Port-au-Prince on Sunday to demand Moise's resignation.

Two people were killed by gunfire on the sidelines of the rally, which ended with significant violence and property damage.