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Former Haitian Officials Accused of Wire Transfer Fraud

Lawsuit alleges Haitian government and wire transfer companies like Western Union, Unitransfer and CAM defrauded the Haitian Diaspora out of millions of dollars through $1.50 fee on money transfers to Haiti

By Bianca Silva

A multi-million dollar class action lawsuit involving former Haitian government officials has been filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec, 24 by two Haitian-American attorneys against former Presidents Michel Martelly, Jocelerme Privet and current President Jovenel Moise who have been accused of allegedly conspiring with wire transfer companies including Western Union, Unitransfer, Natcom and CAM to defraud Haitians living abroad.

According to court documents, from 2011 to 2015, Haitian officials collected $1.50 on every money transfer from abroad to Haiti including five extra cents on every phone call made to Haiti on the claim that the money was being used to fund primary and secondary education. In that time, nearly $90 million was raised.

In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, Martelly called for education reform that would allow for free and universal education for all students through a government subsidy program known as PSUGO. According to court documents, his administration had intended on building schools in 10 different regions that never materialized.

The class action lawsuit comes on the coattails of the Petrocaribe scandal that rocked Haiti in August 2018 where more than a dozen Haitian officials were accused of embezzling $2 billion in Petrocaribe funds provided by Venezuela to aid in rebuilding Haiti.

Marcel P. Dennis, a Brooklyn-based Haitian-American attorney and one of the two attorneys who assisted in filing the lawsuit, mentions the repercussions of a government teaming up with businesses to scam people.

“They conspired amongst themselves to violate the Sherman Act,” he said. “That is price fixing. They entered into agreement to fix the price of the service that they are rendering.”

Price fixing, where two or more companies team up to sell a product at a fixed rate in an attempt to control supply and demand, is a breach of section one of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 which regulates competition amongst businesses.

Dennis was approached around six months ago by a client who found out the money he was sending to support his family in Haiti was being funneled by the government and was seeking legal advice.

“What are you inspecting? The dollar, the fifty dollar, the hundred dollars that I’m sending to my relatives at home,” he said regarding the circumstances his clients find themselves in. “That’s what you’re inspecting, that’s what you’re verifying? What exactly are you verifying?”

For Dennis and for Rodney Austin, a Queens-based Haitian-American attorney who could not be reached for comment, the overall goal of the lawsuit is to demand accountability for the wired money geared to improve education in Haiti.

“We want a detailed accounting of all the money they collected over the years and how much they transferred over to the Haitian government,” he said. “We’re going to charge the government a fee to collect the money or to act as an agent. We want to know all these things. In addition, we’re going to seek from them to actually build the schools that were supposed to be built from the money that was collected out of their own pockets.”


Bianca Silva
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Bianca Silva

Bianca Silva is a journalist and photographer living in New York City. She has written for TIME, Amsterdam News,, Harlem Focus and The WEEK.
Bianca Silva
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Jan. 02, 2019

16 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Former Haitian Officials Accused of Wire Transfer Fraud”

  1. Daniot Sejour says:

    Please don’t stop we all want to know what they use the money for

    • Foreste says:

      J’ai besoin de savoir qu’est ce que font les voleurs avec cet argent qui continue encore à recueillir sur notre dos.

  2. Lynne Pantal says:

    Yes, we all need an explanation of what they do with the money.

  3. Jean Claude Edmond says:

    I don’t think this is a good idea. Jovenel Moise is a good president. I lived in US for more than 37 yrs,and contributed the $1.50 too,that doesn’t borther me.I love Haiti.

  4. Fran says:

    The information about lawsuits against haitien government it seems like not true?because the receipt of the court filed is not clear of view.

  5. Mirlande Ab says:

    Well Jovenel was coming up with the plan so people can plant back we have a great land that is used to make rice and in Artibonite we can make anything you name it but no one wants to give him a chance. See if they want Haiti to prosper they have to dedicate the whole country
    To God and proceed to put themselves together.
    Just like they do in America.

  6. That’s very discussing, that’s the most reason I change my nationality.

  7. That’s very sad, them pigs will never change

  8. Jude says:

    Not sure if this is true or not but,,, I very happy to give the 1.50 but at the same time we need to see what’s being done with it… I myself help my community where I came from Villard Artibonitte . I love to givr and continue doing that… also working on open an organization to help kids and young adults. Please get together people, that’s the only way to save Haiti. 🙂

  9. Wismi pierre says:

    Central bank it’s the keys of the corruption Haiti who s covered all corrupted mafias organizations

  10. Kesler Pierre says:

    Kote lajan Petwo Karibe a?

  11. Gen lotan m tap cheche moun pou nou te rele vole sayo lajustice pou dola 50 sa a yap pran sou nou ki pa regle anyen c nan poch yo lale

  12. Sony says:

    Hopefully we ll get an answer for these $1.50, because those haitian official think they are untouchable. They can steal, embezzle, kill and they will still remain in power. The only way to do that is to keep the people in this poor quality of life where there are no education, no jobs ect..those politicians only use them as a means to an end on election period. Keep them poor and dumb so they pay them “1000 gourdes” for their vote.

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