By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Tues. April 25, 2017: A recently elected senator in Haiti and former top ranking cop there has admitted to a US judge that he is guilty of cocaine trafficking and money-laundering.
Guy Philippe, 49, on Monday appeared in the Southern District Court of Florida before Judge Cecilia Altonaga and admitted guilt to a U.S. drug money-laundering charge under a deal that should allow him to avoid a potential sentence of life in prison for cocaine trafficking.
Under the plea deal, Philippe may be eligible to receive only nine years and the drug trafficking charge would be dropped. He also faces a $1.5 million fine at a sentencing hearing July 5th.
But on Monday, Judge Altonaga warned the man who led the 2004 Haitian uprising that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that she is ” under no obligation to impose that sentence.”
She also rejected his claim of immunity as an elected Haitian official, noting that even if immunity applied, Philippe had not yet been officially sworn in as a senator.
Philippe was indicted along with several others on U.S. drug charges in 2005. He managed to elude capture for more than a decade, including at least 10 attempts to arrest him in Haiti that involved a military operation and a foot chase through the countryside.
Despite that charge, Philippe was elected to the Haitian Senate in November 2016. He was arrested while giving a radio interview in the capital of Port-au-Prince in January and whisked immediately to the U.S.
He admitted Monday in court that, as a high-ranking Haitian police commander in the city of Cap-Haitien, he accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million from drug smugglers from 1999 to 2003. Prosecutors say Philippe and other police officers took the money in exchange for ensuring safe passage for cocaine shipments from Colombia and other countries that went through Haiti on their way to Miami and other U.S. destinations. About $376,000 of the illicit cash was wired to a Miami bank account from Haiti and Ecuador and used by Philippe to purchase a house in the Fort Lauderdale area, according to court documents.
Philippe further admitted that he arranged for over $70,000 in drug proceeds to be deposited into his account that were conducted in a series of deposits each less than $10,000 to avoid the U.S. federal reporting requirements.
“After evading law enforcement for over a decade, Guy Philippe’s guilty plea demonstrates the unrelenting commitment of the U.S. government and our foreign counterparts to disrupt and dismantle transnational narco-trafficking and money laundering organizations,” said Acting United States Attorney Greenberg. “Philippe cast aside his duty to protect and serve the people of Haiti. Instead, he abused his position of authority as a high-ranking Haitian National Police Officer to safeguard drug shipments and launder illicit trafficking proceeds. The prosecution of those who abuse the public’s trust to facilitate criminal conduct remains a top priority for the U.S. and our Haitian law enforcement allies.”