Haitian drug trafficker has sentence slashed for cooperation

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 20, 2015 5:46 PM

By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - A convicted Haitian drug trafficker whose allegations of government corruption contributed to the ouster of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, is set to be released from prison after his 27-year sentence was cut in half, his lawyer said on Monday.

A federal judge in Miami granted the sentence reduction on Friday after the U.S. attorney's office said Beaudouin 'Jacques' Ketant had provided valuable assistance as a witness in the prosecutions of drug-related cases involving Haitian government officials.

"Jacques helped procure the indictment and conviction of just about every important corrupt official in the Aristide government," said his lawyer Ruben Oliva.

At his own sentencing in February 2004 Ketant famously accused Aristide of being a drug lord who controlled Colombian cartel cocaine shipments passing through Haiti.

Days later Aristide was overthrown by armed rebels and bundled out of the country on a U.S. government jet.

Ketant admitted to moving more than 30 tons of cocaine between Colombia and the United States over a 12-year period, paying bribes to Aristide along the way. He was sentenced to 27 years and ordered to pay $15 million.

"His cooperation led to the dismantling of the first narco state in the western hemisphere," said Oliva. "People talk about Colombia and Mexico, but neither of those were compromised to the highest levels as Haiti was."

Aristide denied the allegations and, after an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, he was never charged.

Ketant, 52, now faces possible deportation after he is released from jail.

He plans to fight being sent back to Haiti, Oliva said, arguing that his life would be at risk from enemies seeking revenge for his snitching to the U.S. government.

One of them, Aristide's former head of security, Oriel Jean, was gunned down in the capital Port-au-Prince last month.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)