Local July 20, 2016 | 3:07 pm

Haiti targets Dominican senator in US$324M graft probe

Santo Domingo.- Starting July 19, San Juan province senatorFelix Bautista has eight days to respond to the invitation by the Haiti Senate’sEthics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Haiti Commission expects the Dominican lawmaker toappear on July 25, for a hearing as part of a probe into the management offunds from the PetroCaribe oil deal with Venezuela.

Bautista was called to testify as CEO of the Dominicanconstruction firms Hadom and ROFI, whose alleged violations have led theHaitian government to cancel many contracts abandoning the works and investigatethem for lacking the ability to oversee several projects in that country.

In late June Haiti’s Senate opened an investigation againstBautista, who allegedly funneled millions of dollars to former president MichelMartelly’s presidential bid and once he took office, “secure good contracts inthe neighboring country,” reports outlet acentol.com.co.

Haitian authorities revealed they had stripped Bautista ofthe works In 2015, because "they worked very slowly and buildings werebehind schedule," despite that construction started in 2011.

On that date investigative reporter Nuria Piera showed documentsof deposits through the senator’s companies and business associates in 2012, ofUS$2.58 million, more than RD$100 million.

The documents also allegedly indicated that Bautista’scompanies involved in the transactions also made contributions to then Haiti presidentialcandidate Mirlande Manigat, of US$250,000.

A report by the NCDN network notes that there’s concern inHaiti over six contracts that former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive signed afew days before leaving office on May 14, 2011, with Bautista’s companies formore than US$324 million.

"We have testimonies of people who’ve told us that themoney was paid, the purpose of this investigation is to unmask everything,since the contracts were rescinded, and some company employees said the moneywas handed over to the authorities as the reason why the works haven’t been done,"the report said.

Through this probe we want to know everything, how muchmoney was given? Why weren’t the contracts rescinded? Who gave that money?,"said Gerard Latortue, Prime Minister of Haiti from March 12, 2004 to June 9,2006.

Two of the contracts are still under the control of theDominican senator’s companies.

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