Judge Bernard Sainvil Shields Boulos from Anti-Corruption Unit’s Probe

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Businessman Réginald Boulos did not respond to a summons to appear before an inquiry from Haiti’s Anti-Corruption Unit. Judge Bernard Sainvil ruled he didn’t have to.

On Fri. Jul. 2, 2021 at 10 a.m., Haitian businessman Réginald Boulos, the CEO of Real Business Investment (RBI), was scheduled to be heard by a commission of inquiry from the General Directorate of the Haitian government’s Unit for the Fight Against Corruption (ULCC).  The ULCC was looking into a case in which Boulos had borrowed 65 million gourdes ($666,750) from the funds of the National Old-Age Insurance Office (ONA) for a project to build apartments, and 40 million gourdes ($410,308) were obtained on the account of Boulos’ supermarket chain, Delimart, which was for other purposes.

But Boulos did not show up at the hearing, and, the same day, the ULCC issued a subpoena for his arrest. “We, the Honorable Hans Jacques Ludwig Joseph, Director General of the ULCC, acting in our capacity as judicial police officer and anti-corruption gendarme of the Republic, request the Haitian National Police, in particular the Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) of the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ), to search for and bring in good condition and under strong escort the person named Pierre Réginald Boulos before the commission of inquiry duly mandated for this purpose.”

Judge Bernard Sainvil quashed the subpoena for Réginald Boulos’ arrest to appear before the ULCC.

On Jun. 22, 2021, the ULCC had ordered Haiti’s banks to freeze 260 million gourdes from seven RBI-linked people including Pierre Réginald Boulos, Isabelle Valmey, Ursil Pierre, Emlyne Girova Brice, Sébastien Boulos, Melissa Régine Boulos, and Natacha Blanc. The ULCC’s Ludwig Joseph accused them of embezzling ONA’s funds.

Jenley Marc Jean Baptiste, ONA’s General Director, supported ULCC’s initiative to investigate the dispute between ONA and RBI. In a Jul. 2 note, Jean Baptiste wrote that ONA “vehemently condemns the misappropriation of its funds in the amount of one million U.S. dollars by the company Real Business Investment SA, a company belonging to Mr. Pierre Réginald Boulos, as part of a fictitious project for the construction of social housing in Fermathe, set up in 2018 outside the prescribed norms.” He wrote that ONA “strongly supports” the ULCC investigation and called on “the judiciary to get ready for all the legal consequences.”

Réginald Boulos, president of the recently formed party, the Third Way Movement for Haiti (MTVAyiti) responded to the ULCC and ONA with the following statement on Jul. 3, 2021: “It’s not the first time they have used lies and manipulation to weaponize the justice system against a political opponent,” he wrote in Kreyòl. “It’s not the first time they’ve invented fake cases to cover true cases of crime and corruption. Our eyes are open! One day will be the day! The struggle continues for another Haiti!” He closed with his hashtag in Kreyòl: #YonLòtKalkil, meaning “Another Calculation.”

Samuel Madistin, Réginald Boulos’ lawyer, argues that the ULCC is a mere “administrative authority” with no power to issue subpoenas.

Four days later, on Jul. 7, a commando of Colombian mercenaries brutally assassinated President Jovenel Moïse in his Pèlerin 5 residence. In a Jul. 21 hearing, two days before Moïse’s national funeral in Cap Haïtien on Jul. 23, and in the absence of ULCC lawyers, a Port-au-Prince court presided over by Judge Bernard Sainvil convened and ruled in favor of Réginald Boulos and against the ULCC.

Sainvil’s order was made public on Wed., Jul. 28, 2021. In it, he quashed the ULCC’s subpoena for Boulos’ arrest to appear before it. The freeze on Boulos’ bank accounts was also lifted. The judge’s decision effectively puts an end to the ULCC’s investigation into what Boulos did with money he borrowed from ONA to invest in his company RBI.

On Thu. Jul. 29, Boulos’ lawyer, Samuel Madistin, argued on radio station Magik 9 that: “the ULCC is merely an administrative authority” and  “does not have the jurisdiction to issue a search-and-arrest order against Réginald Boulos.”

“The ULCC does not have the jurisdiction to ask any bank in Haiti to block the bank account of a citizen or business,” Madistin continued. “It is up to the judiciary. The day the ULCC needs to perform such acts, it must send a request to a judge to analyze it on the merits.”

In response to Sainvil’s ruling, the ULCC issued a statement saying that it “takes note of the order issued by default by the summary judge, who ignored the clear and unequivocal provisions of the Sep. 8, 2004 decree establishing [the ULCC].”

The ULCC “informs the population that it will oppose this surprising decision, which results from a superficial and erroneous interpretation and strengthens its determination to clean up the public administration.”

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