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December 10, 2015

ABA ROLI-Trained Haitian Judge Presides over Conviction of a Former Senior Government Official for Corruption

On December 10, 2015, a former director general of a public auto insurance agency in Haiti was convicted of embezzling public funds. A judge trained by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) presided over the case—the country’s first high-visibility corruption case

Judge Surpris O. Berge (left) said that the ABA ROLI mentorship helped him resolve the myriad complex legal issues in the embezzlement case.

Judge Surpris O. Berge of the Port-au-Prince First Instance Court sentenced the former government official to 56 months imprisonment. He also ordered him to pay approximately $310,000 in restitution and fined him almost $18,000. Berge is one of 25 Haitian judges and prosecutors who had been taking part in ABA ROLI’s mentorship activities for the previous eight months. Part of ABA ROLI’s efforts to bolster the capacity of the country’s criminal justice actors, the ongoing mentorship program connects judges and prosecutors assigned to financial crimes in the courts of Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets with a renowned French judge, Armand Riberolles. The ABA ROLI consultant, who has more than 25 years of experience as a judge and investigative magistrate—primarily in financial crimes cases—leads group and one-on-one sessions for the judges and prosecutors from the two jurisdictions with Haiti’s highest volume of corruption cases. Participants do comparative analysis of Haiti’s 2014 anti-corruption legislation (Loi portant prévention et la répression de la corruption) and similar laws from other countries. Haiti’s new criminal code defines basic corruption-related crimes, allowing prosecutors to charge perpetrators with any of 16 new offenses, including bribery, over-invoicing, money laundering, collusion and illicit commission.

Participants of ABA ROLI’s mentorship program also assess Haiti’s draft criminal legislation, which is currently under review, and how it defines various corrupt practices. Additionally, Riberolles discusses examples of complex cases he has handled in France, including those involving the prosecution of senior government officials. He explains how he structures his investigations, gathers evidence and organizes his voluminous files, as well as how he addresses pressure from politicians and the media. He advises his mentees on how to maximize conviction probabilities by thinking strategically about what charges to file and when. Discussions also address administrative and operational aspects of managing corruption cases.

Berge said that the mentorship helped him resolve the myriad complex legal issues in the embezzlement case. “This is exactly the guidance I needed … to resolve these legal matters,” he said. ABA ROLI’s mentorship program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Upcoming mentorship activities will address such issues as banking investigations, international cooperation and public procurement legislation, and will include police officers.

To learn more about our work in Haiti, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].