Miami (AFP) – A former Haitian coup leader and elected senator was sentenced to nine years in a US federal prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiring to launder drug money.
Guy Philippe, a 49-year-old former senior police officer convicted of taking bribes from drug traffickers, had entered his guilty plea in April in exchange for a reduced sentence.
He had evaded law enforcement for nearly a decade and was arrested in Haiti on January 5, just days before he was to be sworn in as a senator — which would have given him immunity from prosecution.
Philippe was elected to the Haitian parliament in November. He had close ties to the country’s President Jovenel Moise.
In 2004, he helped lead an armed rebellion against then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced to flee the country.
The US drug charges had been hanging over him since 2005.
In his guilty plea, Philippe admitted he had abused his position as a high-ranking police officer to protect narcotics shipments headed to the United States between 1999 and 2003.
He did so in exchange for bribes from drug traffickers that totaled between $1.5 million and $3.5 million, knowing the proceeds came from cocaine sales in Miami and other locations in the United States, prosecutors said.
Philippe gave some of the bribe money to other Haitian police and security personnel to ensure their cooperation, the US Justice Department said.
His cut was used to buy a house in Florida, for his use and that of his family while in the US.
In one instance, Philippe was said to have wired $376,000 in drug proceeds to his joint bank account in Miami from banks in Haiti and Ecuador using the names of others.
He also admitted to organizing $70,000 in drug money to be deposited into his account in amounts under the $10,000 level that triggers US reporting requirements.