Former Ambassador Bocchit Edmond tells that accusations of him secretly printing passports in an alleged kickback scheme are false. Edmond, whose sister is also suspected in the scheme, said the acts are the work of diplomat Gélorme Juste, a cousin of former Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs Claude Joseph.
By Juhakenson Blaise
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Bocchit Edmond, the Ambassador of Haiti in Washington, D.C. fired this week on suspicion of corruption and illicit enrichment said he is not involved in any harmful acts and that some want to tarnish his image. Edmond, in a public statement, denies making passports illegally for Haitians and says other diplomats were involved in what U.S. investigators have deemed a money laundering scheme.
Questioned about the reasons the case of irregular passport production was brought against him, the former Ambassador told The Haitian Times in a WhatsApp exchange that he does not know.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry abruptly called Edmond back to Port-au-Prince on May 3 and dismissed him after the alleged corruption, discovered by the U.S. Department of State, came to light.
The case against Edmond, who was appointed to the post in December 2020, goes back to June 2021. It started with cash enveloped originating in Chile, spawned inquires in the U.S. and Haiti, involves various government employees in various locations and ended with investigators recommending that administrative and legal sanctions be brought against all Haitian Embassy staffers involved in the passports production scheme.
Cash envelopes intercepted
It was a June 2021 missive that prompted the probe. That’s when the U.S. Customs officials seized an envelope from the Haitian Embassy in Chile addressed to the Washington Embassy that contained $50,000 USD. American authorities then launched an investigation and discovered that a diplomat in the Washington Embassy, Gélorme Juste, was involved in money laundering.
When the State Department made him aware of the suspicious envelopes in August 2021, one month after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, Edmond said he told then former Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Claude Joseph.
Juste has since been fired on Aug. 9, 2021, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was briefed.
One month later, in September 2021, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) opened an investigation into the Haitian Embassy. In its report, the MAE found that passports were produced irregularly at the embassy on a routine basis.
Among evidence cited: On Sept. 6, 2021, 14 passports were printed at the Haitian Embassy in Washington through the account of Roody Julien, an employee. Julien told investigators of MAE he was not present at the embassy that day, local radio Radio Métronome said.
Betyna Edmond, Edmond’s sister and current consulate in New York, also went to the facility every weekend to print passports using the account of Emmanuel Content, an employee in the Passport Production Unit. Investigators said he regularly gave access to his unlimited account to others.
The ministerial investigation explains that Edmond was involved in establishing a pseudo consular antenna in Salisbury in United States without approval. Investigators say that facility was nothing more than an attempt to normalize the process of irregular production of passports.
“I disagree with this masterfully orchestrated cabal which only aims to tarnish my 32 years of public service in the diplomacy of my country,” Edmond said in the statement released May 4. “I affirm that I have nothing to do, neither near nor far, with this affair.”
Diplomats point fingers
Since the allegations were made public, diplomats have been pointing their fingers at others they said were responsible for various functions.
“These envelopes containing the U.S. $50,000 were addressed to the personal residence of Gélorme Juste, a cousin of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Claude Joseph, who had hired Juste at his post,” Edmond said in the public statement. “It is common knowledge that I had no control over Gélorme Juste, who dealt directly with his cousin, the minister.”
Former Ambassador Edmond says he denounces the MAE report which, according to him, was produced under the orders of former Minister Joseph.
Joseph served as both interim prime minister and foreign minister of Haiti under Moïse. Juste headed Consular services of the embassy in D.C. He often produces large quantities of passports, whose origin and destination of the funds received for these passports remain unknown and do not go in the coffers of the Haitian state.
“As Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, I was just doing my job,” Joseph told Le Nouvelliste. “Once informed about Gélorme Juste, I revoked him and quickly instructed the Director General and the then Director of Consular Affairs of the MAE to initiate an investigation at the Haitian Embassy in the United States.”
“Juste’s case unfortunately uncovered the involvement of several diplomats, including Bocchit Edmond and his sister Betyna Edmond, in acts of corruption,” adds Joseph. “The report was actually submitted to PM Ariel Henry who ignored it. He never reacted.”
The actions of fraudulent production of passports at the Haitian Embassy in Washington amounted to a corruption scheme. The Haitian government is unable to confirm the number of passports produced by Betyna Edmond and what happened to the money made from these passports, say investigators.
Content told investigators that he received $2,000 USD from the Embassy of Haiti in the Bahamas for printing the passports, Le Nouvelliste reported.