A Haiti petroleum deal that surfaced in the Panama Papers — 11.5 million secret documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm specializing in the creation of offshore companies — will come under the scrutiny of a Haitian Senate probe, the chamber’s acting president said.
Ronald Lareche said he plans to mount a special commission next week in the chamber to look into spending and contracts under former President Michel Martelly’s 2011-2016 administration. As part of that, senators will be asked to examine “the Haitian personalities who have emerged in the Panama Papers,” Lareche told the Miami Herald.
A Herald investigation involving the Panama Papers revealed how a politically connected clique tried to profit off a 2014 oil deal between Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. A central figure in the endeavor was Georges Andy René, who served as head of the Centre de Facilitation des Investissements or CFI from August 2012 to February 2014. The agency is the Haiti government arm that promotes investment.
In his role as CFI director, René pushed a proposal to forge a petroleum deal with Trinidad, Haiti’s commerce minister at the time, Wilson Laleau, said. René was also working with Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore companies that could profit from the petroleum deal, according to a Jan. 27, 2014, email in the MF files. That effort, described in a later email, involved securing the “exclusive right” to facilitate Trinidadian petroleum imports, the law firm’s documents show.
Asked by Mossack Fonseca during a due diligence search if he had a conflict of interest, René said he did not. He would not provide the Herald with details of his role in negotiating the energy arrangement between Haiti and Trinidad. That deal was billed as a $30 million investment by the chairman of one of Trinidad’s state-owned gas companies.
Both Laleau and former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who later employed René as a special adviser on investment matters, said they were “shocked” by his commercial activities with Mossack Fonseca and that they presented a conflict of interest. The two former government ministers also said they had nothing to do with negotiating the Haiti-Trinidad energy cooperation memorandum of understanding signed in July 2014. The deal eventually fizzled, dashing any hopes of the clique of cashing in.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
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