By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- The Haitian judge conducting an inquiry into corruption involving Haiti's former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on Friday issued five arrest warrants against suspects who failed to comply with a summons sent to them a few days ago to appear at the magistrate's office for questioning.
Investigating judge Lamarre Belizaire
Sources close to the case told HCNN that Judge Lamarre Belizaire on Friday ordered that Mirlande Libérus, Gustave Faubert, Rodnée Deschineau, Jean-Robert Esther and Max Buteau be arrested and brought before him as he proceeds with a series of hearings of former allies of ex-president Aristide allegedly involved in corruption, laundering of drug money and misappropriation of public funds, among other charges.
A clerk at the Judicial Palace (the headquarters of the judicial system), who saw the warrants, said he knew that the judge was preparing late Friday afternoon to send the warrants to the head of the judicial police, at the "Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire", known as DCPJ.
"I personally saw the warrants issued against those five people and I know the judge was trying to find DCPJ to have the police collected them," the clerk, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told HCNN.
Mirlande Liberus was director of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy and reputed to have been Aristide's right-hand woman, Gustave Faubert was minister of finance under Aristide, while Jean-Robert Esther was an influential police inspector-general, and Rodnée Deschineau was the former director-general of the Haitian Popular Bank, known as BPH, through which most of the fraudulent transactions were made.
The fifth suspect, Max Buteau, has allegedly received significant sums of money through the scheme set up by the Aristide administration to misappropriate public funds.
It is not clear, however, that all the suspects in the case still live in Haiti. It is believed, for instance, that Liberus has been living in Florida for several years now.
Belizaire last week banned Aristide and 34 other former allies from leaving the Caribbean country's territory.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were allegedly embezzled under Aristide's government from 2001 to 2004, according to official administrative reports.
Aristide was forced from power in February 2004 by a bloody rebellion led by former army officer and police commissioner, Guy Philippe, and growing popular uprising.
Aristide went into exile in the Central African Republic, then South Africa, where he spent about seven years before returning to Haiti in 2011, under the presidency of René Préval.
The criminal investigation into Aristide's administration was initiated in 2005 under the interim government, led by then president Boniface Alexandre and former prime minister Gérard Latortue.
A new anti-corruption law, pushed by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and promulgated by President Michel Martelly was passed earlier this year to toughen punitive measures against those in the public administration and others found guilty of corrupt practices.
Aristide has not yet publically commented on the restrictive measures taken against him and his former collaborators.
Meanwhile, heavy gunfire erupted on Thursday night outside Judge Belizaire’s residence.
Haitian justice minister, Jean Renel Sanon, said on Friday that unidentified gunmen fired rounds of automatic weapons just outside Belizaire’s home.
"When the judge reported the facts to me last night, I called the police and a patrol was immediately deployed outside the judge's home to protect him and to face the gunmen," Sanon told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN).
The gunmen had time to flee just before the arrival of the police contingent and the incidents are now being investigated by the police.
“We are going to make sure that necessary measures are taken to protect the judge," said Sanon.