Months prior to Haiti’s deeply flawed October 2016 presidential vote, the man who would become president, Jovenel Moïse, received millions of dollars for questionable road rehabilitation projects that a panel of Haitian government auditors say were part of embezzlement schemes that defrauded the country’s poor out of billions of dollars in Venezuelan aid meant to improve their lives.
At least $1 million was for a stretch of rural road in northern Haiti that government auditors said was paid for twice, after the public works ministry issued the same contract to two firms in late 2014. The firms shared the same tax identification number, government patent, technical staff and resume of projects in their portfolio, auditors said.
The only difference between the firms, auditors noted, was their heads. Agritans listed Moïse, a relatively unknown businessman and eventual handpicked successor to then-Haiti president Michel Martelly, as its head, while Betexs, the second firm, listed someone else. Agritrans received a $419,240 or 66 percent advance on the project — two months before the signing of its contract with the ministry of public works.
“For the court, giving a second contract for the same project... is nothing less than a scheme to embezzle funds,” auditors said about the project involving the Borgne-Petit Bourg-de-Borgne road.
The accusation is part of a damning 600-plus page government audit of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil program that Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes handed over to the Haitian Senate on Friday. It is the second installment of a three-part investigation into how the country managed billions of dollars in savings from the oil program between 2008-16. On Monday, auditors tweeted that they are continuing to work on their wide-ranging investigation.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.