Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday that the US had sanctioned former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe for the alleged misuse of tens of millions of dollars.
In a statement, Blinken said the designation for his involvement in significant corruption would render Lamothe, who also served as minister for planning and external cooperation, “generally ineligible for entry into the United States.”
“Specifically, Lamothe misappropriated at least $60 million from the Haitian government’s PetroCaribe infrastructure investment and social welfare fund for private gain. Through this corrupt act and his direct involvement in the management of the fund, he exploited his role as a public official and contributed to the current instability in Haiti,” Blinken said.
PetroCaribe, a deal with Venezuela, had temporarily provided Haiti’s government with cheap fuel. However, it then foundered and became linked to a scandal over the alleged mismanagement of the resulting funds, with claims of corruption sparking massive protests in recent years.
Lamothe, in a statement Saturday, denied the US allegations against him, saying they were made without an investigation and could separate him from his family in the US. He currently lives in Florida.
Lamothe, who is on a business trip to West Africa, said the PetroCaribe allegations “have been thoroughly scrutinized five times through comprehensive audits over the past 9 years. Furthermore, a judicial decision found no evidence supporting these allegations of misappropriated funds. Despite this conclusive evidence, these long-refuted rumors have resurfaced without any new proof and today are used to unfairly make me ineligible to return to my family in the US.”
In 2019, the Haitian court of auditors released two reports about the PetroCaribe funds. The reports accused multiple high-profile politicians of mismanagement and corruption.
Blinken said Friday that the move against Lamothe was part of “a series of actions that promote accountability for those who foment violence, block life-saving humanitarian support, and enrich themselves at the expense of the Haitian people.”
The announcement underscores the international community’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and ensure transparency in Haiti’s governance, which is seen as crucial to fostering stability and prosperity in the country.
Lamothe resigned as prime minister in 2015 following violent anti-government protests calling for elections and for him and President Michel Martelly to step down. Martelly left office the following year.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.