MIAMI, USA -- The owner of the Haiti Observateur Group and Leo Joseph, its owner, have agreed to the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against them by Laurent Lamothe, the prime minister of Haiti, and Patrice Baker, his former business partner.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
Lamothe and Baker sued the online paper in 2012 following an article that accused them of using the Haitian government to pressure Haitel, a bankrupt telecommunications company, to sell its assets at below market value to Nord Citadel, an investment company seeking investments in Haiti.
In exchange for the dismissal and under the penalty of perjury, the online paper agreed to publish in its entirety a sworn declaration by Michael Charles, the founder and managing partner of Nord Citadel. The declaration confirmed that the allegations against Lamothe and Baker were fabricated. In the declaration, Charles refuted the Observateur's claims that the prime minister was involved in promoting the sale.
"Neither I, nor Nord Citadel was ever pressured in any way by Mr Lamothe… or anyone else associated with the Haitian government," Charles confirmed.
The sworn declaration also shows that Joseph misrepresented the sources he used for writing the article. He claimed that he had interviewed Charles, citing him as the principal source for his allegations against the prime minister. According to Charles, they held a brief phone call where only time and place of a possible interview were discussed. The interview never materialized.
In another passage of the declaration, Charles denied Joseph's claims that he was wined and dined in Haiti by Haitian government officials in their attempt to seal the sale of Haitel.
Charles noted, "I have never been to Haiti in my life."
In the same vein, Charles acknowledged that he has never met Lamothe.
Citing Charles as the source, the Observateur's central allegation was that the prime minister had pressured Nord Citadel to put down a substantial down payment to purchase Haitel and that they had "agreed to a purchase price of 25 million even though the assets of Haitel were worth around $80 million."
In the sworn statement, Charles denied having ever made those false statements to the Observateur's Joseph simply because the interview never occurred.
In fact, the sale of Haitel never occurred, instead given the bankruptcy of the company, it will be placed in auction in the coming months.
Lamothe long claimed that neither he nor his former partner had brought the lawsuit against the Haiti Observateur to obtain monetary compensation. Lamothe stated he felt completely vindicated by the dismissal, because "by agreeing to publish an affidavit that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were truthful from the beginning and that Mr Joseph was simply not telling the truth, the objective of the lawsuit has been more than met."
Charles's declaration supports the US District Court's early finding in February of 2013 that Joseph had acted with "malice and with a reckless disregard for the truth."
Salim Succar, one of the prime minister's Haitian lawyers noted that the "truth had prevailed" and that "the dismissal of the case should serve as a good lesson to all journalists to check their facts and uphold ethical standards before publishing malicious statements."