National gas station Haiti
Crowd forms outside a National gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

By Patrick Chrispin via The Jamaica Gleaner

Patrick Chrispin is an advisor to the president of Haiti

As Haiti battles the global economic fallout from COVID-19, another story has been brewing as well. A series of investigations has confirmed the long-standing suspicions of most Haitians: corrupt business people have been profiting from blackouts that have roiled Haiti for decades. 

Recent reports from the Haitian Anti-Corruption Unit have detailed cases whereby US$194 million was stolen from the Haitian government by corrupt ‘oligarchs’ overcharging the state for oil. As disclosed in the reports, 7 million gallons of imported gasoline and diesel ‘disappeared’ from state reserves between March 2010 and May 2020. 

This is the tip of a very large blackout iceberg that investigators believe has seen nearly US$4 billion swindled by an elite group of corrupt actors, dubbed ‘Haiti’s oligarchs’, through legacy contracts, overbilling, and straightforward theft over the past 13 years. During his time in office, President Moïse has made ending graft a priority – and, unsurprisingly, the benefactors of systematic corruption are fighting back. 

The concept of state capture, whereby the business of government is controlled by a small number of corrupt monopolies, is nothing new in Haiti. Corruption among some top-level Haitian business interests in key sectors intersecting with government and politics has been prevalent for decades. This, combined with the growing influence that the ‘oligarchs’ hold in some political circles, and their casual willingness to deploy violence to preserve their position, is lamented as making it practically impossible to create change or tackle the brand of corruption that plagues Haiti. 

Who is benefitting?

It is a well-known fact to political insiders that nearly all government contractors over-inflate prices and defraud the state. A culture of fear has set in amongst government employees. The cost to the state, national funds, and the people of the country is enormous. The bigger question is – who, exactly, is benefiting from these practices?  

As seen on Dmitri Vorbe’s social-media accounts, part of the missing funds is enjoyed on yacht vacations and jet-setting international travel. Continue reading

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