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Haiti’s former President Aristide faces corruption probe

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is facing a money laundering, corruption and drug trafficking probe, officials said Thursday.

Port-au-Prince civil court judge Raymond Jean Michel said the matter dated back to 2006 and 2007 and had been handed over to a judge of inquiry.

“There are two cases concerning former president Aristide at the court related to money laundering, corruption and the illicit drug trafficking,” he told AFP.

Haitian media said Aristide was banned from leaving Haiti due to the probe, reports that the judge in charge of the inquiry, Lamarre Belizaire, refused to confirm.

Belizaire had summoned a dozen people for questioning Thursday — including several Aristide associates, as well as former dignitaries of his regime, the judges said.

Aristide — Haiti’s first democratically elected leader — was voted president twice, in 1990 and in 2000. However, his first mandate was interrupted between 1991 and 1994 by a coup that saw him take refuge in the United States.

When another coup ousted him in 2004, he left aboard a U.S. Air Force plane into exile in South Africa, fleeing political turmoil. He returned to his homeland in March 2011.

An investigation launched in 2005 into the management of Aristide’s government concluded that millions of dollars worth of public funds had been misappropriated.

Earlier this year, a Haitian judge indicted several people with close ties to Aristide in the 2000 murder of a prominent journalist.

Aristide testified but was not indicted.

Known as a champion of Haiti’s poor and reviled by the elite, Aristide — a former Roman Catholic priest — is still popular in the impoverished country.

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