Haiti Senator-elect Guy Philippe

A senator-elect from Haiti pleaded guilty in a US federal court to money laundering charges, raising the question of whether or not he will provide information on other Haitian elites suspected of involvement in criminal activities.

Guy Philippe pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with payments received as a result of drug sales that occured in the United States between the late 1990s and early 2000s, US authorities announced on April 24.

Philippe worked as a high-profile police officer in Haiti from 1997 and 2000. He has admitted to using his position to protect drug shipments arriving into the country, and said that he received between $1.5 and $3.5 million in bribes from traffickers between June 1999 and April 2003.

Philippe also said he shared part of the bribes with other corrupt members of the police forces to ensure protection for the drug shipments, and that he used part of his payments to purchase a property in Florida and support himself and his family in the United States.

Philippe has played a key role in his country's political history. He reportedly planned a coup against Haiti's then-President René Préval in 2000, but was forced to flee to the Dominican Republic. In 2004, he took part in an attempted coup against Préval's successor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Philippe was indicted on drug charges in the United States in 2005, and US authorities attempted to capture him for years without success.

In November 2016, the former policeman was elected senator in the Haitian province of Grand Anse. However, on January 5, 2017, only four days before being sworn in as senator, Philippe was captured and extradited to the United States where he initially pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Philippe will be sentenced in Miami on July 5, 2017. He faces up to twenty years in prison. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The fact that Philippe was able to escape authorities for a decade and was even elected senator while drug charges were outstanding against him speaks volumes about the difficulties facing Haitian authorities attempting to bring high-profile criminals to justice. And it also raises questions as to whether the senator-elect will provide information on other criminal suspects.

To be sure, Philippe is not the only Haitian politician to have come under the spotlight for actual or alleged criminal activities. Another senator elected in November 2016, Wilfrid Gelin, has been accused of changing his name to hide a US guilty plea for smuggling undocumented migrants into the United States, reported the Miami Herald.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

Accusations of money laundering have also been lodged against current President Jovenel Moïse. On January 20, Judge Brédy Fabien requested executives of the state-owned Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC) to testify about one of the president's bank accounts, in an effort to more carefully examine large and seemingly suspicious transactions to the president's account. President Moïse has dismissed the money laundering accusations.

Given his known ties to drug traffickers and other potentially corrupt Haitian elites, Philippe may be in a position to reveal information to US authorities about those actors. However, details of the conditions under which Philippe agreed to plead guilty have not been made public, so it is unclear whether he struck a deal with prosecutors that would require his cooperation on such matters.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...