Is Haiti largest cellphone company, Digicel, trying to sway outcome of Haitian presidential election?

Posted by on Friday, November 25, 2016 Under: Elections
Image result for Digicel Haiti

Haiti's largest cellphone company has found itself embroiled an in electoral scandal in the country, risking great damage to the credibility of its brand in its most valuable market in the Caribbean.

The head of Haiti's largest cellphone company, Maarten Boute, was sent an invitation letter by the public prosecutor of Port-au-Prince, Danton Leger, to appear before the Court and clarify the role his company Digicel, may have had in disseminating preliminary results of Sunday's elections, violating the electoral law, and possibly derailing the process and plunge the country into a deeper political crisis.

"To Mr. Maarten Boute
CEO of Telephone Company Digicel 


The Office of the Public Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince presents its compliments and, as part of its sacrosanct law enforcement mission, is obliged to invite you to appear before the public prosecutor on Monday, It will be November 28, 2016 at ten o'clock in the morning, because your company has published some results of the elections organized in the country on November 20, in flagrant violation of the electoral decree governing the elections.

Magistrate Jean Danton Léger
Commissioner of Port-au-Prince"

On the night of election day, November 20, hours after the voting centers had closed and the ballots were just begun being counted by hand, thousands of Digicel subscribers received an SMS that said in Haitian Kreyol that "all of the ballots have been counted, PHTK won the election with 64% of the votes. CNN confirmed it." One of our correspondents in Haiti received a similar text at 9:26 PM. Celebrations for the "winning" of  the PHTK's presidential candidate Jovenel Moise immediately started to take place around Haiti as the news begun to spread. That same night , the Fanmi Lavalas party also declared that it had won the election. The next day at noon, despite less than 25% of ballots being counted, the spokesman of the PHTK party, Rudy Herivaux, held a press conference declaring its presidential candidate Jovenel Moise the "elected president of Haiti." adding "We know officially, the country knows, the world knows who is the president elect of Haiti and it is not a mystery."

Among the hard questions the CEO of Digicel Haiti will have to answer are: How did thousands of people all at once received the same text messages? Did these text messages originate from Digicel's itself or from numerous numbers belonging to the PHTK party or people working for the party? The CONATEL which regulates Haiti's Telecommunications needs to do a full investigation to determine the source of these text messages. Digicel is not responsible for the content of the messages sent by its subscribers, but it does bare responsibility for its own communications.

Also on election day, near voting centers, many PHTK supporters were passing out Digicel's prepaid cards with the name of candidate Jovenel Moise and Logo of the PHTK party printed on them.

The suspicions and rumors that Haiti's largest cellphone company with nearly 5 million subscribers could somehow have or tried to played a role in the outcome of the elections are very troublesome, and are reasons enough to be of extreme concerns to everyone and need to be investigated immediately, not just in the context of the election, but as a matter of national security.

Does Digicel have an interest in the outcome of the Haitian election?

 Absolutely.The interest of Digicel in the outcome of the Haitian election cannot be underestimated and the suspicions that it could favor a particular candidate in the race is not totally unfounded.

The presidential candidate of the PHTK party Jovenel Moise, was handpicked by former president Michel Martelly, and under  Michel Martlly's presidency ( 2010-2015) Digicel received many favorable tax deals, it flourished in Haiti and even ventured into other sectors of the Haitian economy such as tourism.

-In March 2012, the Haitian government approved Digicel's acquisition of Comcel / Voila, its main competitor in Haiti, for $97 million. And after its third competitor HaitiTel was liquidated by the Michel Martelly government, for the company's public debt, Digicel was left with 85% market shares of subscribers.
Digicel's revenue in Haiti in 2014 was $498 million 

- In 2011, a donor to the Clinton Foundation reached out to Hillary Clinton's office to promote a Haiti hotel project that would later received support of the US government, and Bill Clinton, according to emails released by the US State Department. Richard L. Friedman, a Boston developper, emailed Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton Chief of staff to tout a projet of Digicel teamed up with the Marriott and the Clinton Foundation to build a $45 million luxury hotel in Port-au-Prince.  The Port-au-Prince Marriott opened in 2012.

Digicel has contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and its owner, the Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, has donated between $5 million and $10 million. Unigestion Holdings, a subsidiary of Digicel that was reportedly tasked with managing the Port-au-Prince Marriott, reportedly gave between $10,000 and $25,000.  

Hillary Clinton's emails published by Wikileaks confirms that the US State Department had played leading role in changing the outcome of the 2010 Haitian presidential election in favor of Michel Martelly, and this electoral scandal involving Digicel shows how the remnants of the Clinton may still be playing huge role in Haitian politics. If Digicel is indeed found to have sent these sms calling out the election, could and should be subject to hefty fines.

It is not clear if the invitation of Digicel Haiti's CEO Marten Boute to appear before the court is part of the investigation that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said that it was considering launching after the two political parties PHTK and LAVALAS claimed victory before official results are published.

In : Elections