Aristide Redux

Supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide demonstrating in Haiti on the eighth anniversary of the 2004 coup d'etat that led to his exile to Africa. Aristide returned to Haiti in March 2011. / REUTERS

Who is the mystery foreign official at the heart of a bribery case unfolding in a Miami courtroom?

Sources have told The Miami Herald and other publications that it is none other than Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is accused of pocketing $1 million in kickbacks from two Miami companies doing business in Haiti.

The companies, Cinergy Telecommunications and Uniplex Telecom Technologies, held contracts to provide long-distance service through Haiti’s government-owned telecom service under Aristide.

The case against Cinergy was dismissed last week, but the suit accused the firms of setting up a shell company, Digitek, that funneled cash from the contract to the former president and other senior officials in Haiti, rather than to the state-owned phone company, Haiti Telecom.

In earlier years, the United States government accused Aristide of involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption. But U.S. prosecutors  failed to convince a grand jury to indict the former president.

Aristide is not actually charged in the current case, and his attorney, Ira Kurzban, dismissed the accusations contained in the case as “part of the same smear campaign that the United States has orchestrated against Aristide since he was first elected in 1990.”

Haiti watchers interpreted the timing of the telecom case as a warning from the U.S. to the ex-president, who returned from exile last year, to stay out of politics.

Sweep to Miami bribery probe zeroes in on Haiti’s ex-leader Aristide

The FBI investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which began with the phone hacking and police bribery scandal at one of his London newspapers, is now examining News Corp.’s actions in Russia.

The Associated Press reports that the FBI is  studying the company’s involvement with a Russian billboard company, News Outdoor Russia, and allegations that the company bribed government officials to secure choice billboard locations.

Though Murdoch sold his company’s majority interest in News Outdoor Russia in July, his firm could still be held liable for any bribes paid during its ownership of the company.

So far, more than 20 former employees of Murdoch’s British newspapers have been arrested in connection with the phone hacking and bribery scandal, though none have yet been charged.

Sweep to AP sources: FBI’s News Corp. probe heads to Russia

The road from Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, to its second city, Bulawayo, is 275 miles. But drivers going from one city to the other face some 13 police roadblocks, each one representing another demand for a bribe.

Independent anti-corruption commissions call Zimbabwe’s police force the most corrupt in the region, with the ubiquitous police checkpoints the public face of that corruption. Some lawmakers called last week for the police to dismantle the roadblocks.

But at a press conference, the country’s chief of police, Augustine Chihuri, dismissed the demands to shut down the roadblocks as a “non-starter.” Chihuri is close to Zimbabwe’s notoriously corrupt President Robert Mugabe.

According to police sources quoted in The Africa Report, a news website, the roadblocks appear more a  product of well-organized crime than of random efforts by police to boost their meager salaries. Police in Zimbabwe earn about $200 a month.

According to the site, each highway traffic patrol unit is under orders from on high to raise $3,000 a week. Police stations must cough up $1,000 a week in fines, and traffic sections have to turn in $1,500 each week. “The money is reportedly earmarked to service the force’s new fleet of vehicles,” the site reports.

Sweep to Zimbabwe’s police is getting rich fast


Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.