WIKILEAKS: Joseph Lambert, President of Haitian Senate, elected last night, was listed by US in 2006 for Drug trafficking

Posted by on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 Under: Corruptions
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Senator Joseph Lambert was elected last night, Tuesday, January 9, 2018 as President of the Haitian Senate and the National Assembly.

Senator Joseph Lambert who received the strong support of outgoing Senate's President Youri Latortue and that of Senators of the PHTK party, who make up the majority in the Haitian senate, was easily elected as the next leader of the senate by a confidential vote of 28-29.

M. Lambert, a well know figure in Haitian politics, had already held this position for less than a year beginning in 2006, his presidency of the legislative body during that short time was marred by major controversies and he was accused by his own pairs of being "ineffective and divisive."

His short mandate ended when he resigned minutes prior to the opening of the January 17, 2007 senate session.  The resignation came after a bitter difference of opinion over whether a new bureau should be elected at the opening of the 2008 legislative session, or only after ten new Senators were elected later that year .  Supporters of then outgoing Senate President Joseph Lambert took the latter position. 

"A dilemma for US Government."

Wikileaked cables published in 2008, showed how the US government had not only suspected, but listed Joseph Lambert for drug trafficking. No charges were brought against him because American justice did not have enough proof to indict him.

"Lambert presents a dilemma for the US Government.  Under normal circumstances we would seek close contact with this skilled and ambitious politician who is aiming for the presidency. Our DEA office informs that though additional debriefings of Celestin and other Haitian narcotics traffickers in the U.S. may develop more information regarding Lambert's activities, conclusive information that might lead to an indictment is far from certain." Said a paragraph in a wikileaked cable dated February 13, 2007, sent by then American Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson.

A month earlier, in January 2006, Ambassador Sanderson in a long email sent to the US State Department, described a face-to-face meeting he had with Joseph Lambert, whom at this point was already the President of the Haitian Senate, and how she pressed him about the allegations of drug trafficking relating to him:

"Classified By: Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d ). 
1. (C)  The Ambassador raised the question of drug trafficking in Haiti to National Assembly President Joseph Lambert, and he took the opportunity to speak at length about the problem.  In a meeting with the Ambassador on January 25, Lambert stated that the Haitian parliament is ready to support GoH (Government of Haiti) action against drug trafficking, provided that DEA will also provide reinforcement. He blames weak institutions, especially during the interim-GoH, for allowing the increase in drug trafficking through Haiti.  Lambert noted that drug trafficking intensified between 2002 and 2006, and agreed with the Ambassador's assessment that airplane trafficking had especially increased.  Lambert stressed that Haiti is neither a producer nor consumer of drugs, and that drugs are passing through on their way from 
Colombia and Venezuela to the US and Europe.  Since the drugs are transiting through Haiti, the GoH needs improved port, airport and customs control.  The GoH does not have the capacity to control the ports and intercept drugs. They need 
specialized teams and equipment - especially satellites - to track the airplanes, boats and vehicles carrying drugs into and out of the county.  Lambert stated that a DEA presence at the ports, airport and in customs could help alleviate the problem.  He also cited the need for political will in Haiti to do more then just talk about the drug problem, noting that weak GoH institutions make action difficult. 
2. (C)  Lambert also said he has doubts as to the willingness among the international community, especially the USG, to help the GoH combat drugs.  The Ambassador agreed that there is more that we can do and emphasized the need for cooperation between the USG, the GoH, and the Dominican Republic.  When the Ambassador mentioned that the GoH has some responsibility in the matter as well, namely via police and judicial reform, several members of the chamber of deputies who were also in attendance, apparently believing that faster reforms were unlikely, laughed at her suggestion. 
3. (C)  Lambert raised the issue of money seized from drug traffickers, and stated that it would be good to have a law specifying what should be done with this money.  He suggested a certain percentage of the confiscated money could be designated for infrastructure and other development projects. Lambert also mentioned the banking sector's role.  Money made from drug trafficking is invested into different banks, and banks could help by tracking where the drug money is coming from and where it's going.  (Note: The Haitian press reported on the meeting between the Ambassador and Senator Lambert, focusing on the fact that they discussed Haiti's 
drug trafficking problem. End Note.) 
4. (C)  Comment:  Lambert is proving to be a remarkably shrewd politician.  He did not raise the subject of drug trafficking himself, being keenly aware that rumors of his 
own drug connections (ref A) are his Achilles heel.  However, when questioned by the Ambassador he was fully prepared to take a proactive, rather than defensive, stance on the issue. Lambert is also exceedingly smooth, firmly defending the position established by President Preval that the US and other consumer countries must solve Haiti's trafficking problems, but conceding enough of the Ambassador's points to 
avoid coming across as uncooperative.  If his political ambitions remain unchecked, he will at some point have to move beyond talk and draw some clear lines regarding his relationships with other individuals suspected of involvement in the drug trade, most notably his allies in his hometown of Jacmel, including the newly elected mayor, Edwin Zenny. "

Again in February of 2006, in a long email, ambassador Sanderson related back to the US State Department, about allegations of drug trafficking of Senator Joseph Lambert:

"B. 06 PAP 828 
Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 
1.4(b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary.  Senate President Joseph Lambert on February 6 calmly and methodically denied accusations that he had connections to drug traffickers in a two-hour conversation with Polcouns.  Lambert acknowledged that suspicions arose as a result of his association with Jean Marie Fourel Celestin, an ally of former President Aristide convicted of drug trafficking in the United States in 2004.  He insisted, however, that his relationship with Celestin was purely a political alliance that ended in 2000.  Lambert admitted that 
his native Jacmel was a focal point for narcotics transshipment through Haiti, but sidestepped the issue of whether political figures were involved, rather expressing indignation that the Haitian and U.S. governments were not 
doing more to stop it.  Lambert reiterated his offer (made in ref A) to lead parliament in supporting Haitian-U.S. anti-narcotics cooperation, and also offered to informally consult with Embassy staff.  DEA informs us that information provided by Celestin links Lambert to narcotics traffickers in Jacmel, but that this information is insufficient to indict him.  As noted in post's reporting on Lambert, he is an ambitious and effective politician with whom we would normally seek close contact.  With no immediate prospects for an indictment, post will explore his offer to consult more closely on narcotics issues and see what results.  End Summary. 
Cards on the Table 
2.  (C)  Without knowing the subject of the conversation beforehand, Lambert agreed to meet at Polcouns' residence on a day's notice.  Polcouns opened the conversation noting that the Embassy had monitored Lambert's performance as senate president with admiration, but that the widespread suspicion 
regarding his links to drug traffickers made it difficult for the Embassy to establish a closer relationship with him. Could he address these suspicions?  Seeming unsurprised and exhibiting no offense, Lambert responded by paraphrasing Polcoun's concerns.  "You're interested in three things:  1) 
Was I involved in drug trafficking with Fourel Celestin; 2) Who in Jacmel is currently involved in drug trafficking and 3)  Will I help you to identify those traffickers?"  With that, Lambert launched into a patient and detailed defense of his character over the course of a two-hour conversation, claiming that he always did everything in his power to protect his "personal dignity,"  and admitting his ambition to take his career "as high as it can go." 
Not Me 
3. (C)  Lambert maintained that accusations against him stemmed entirely from his association with Celestin -- "this is the charge my detractors always make"  -- but claimed that their relationship was purely political.  As the son of two illiterate peasants, Lambert had to overcome much discrimination during his rise in politics.  Celestin recognized Lambert's talent and gave him further opportunity. Lambert served as Celestin's campaign manager and political 
director from 1997 to 2000, but was never himself a Fanmi Lavalas (FL) member.  "I have always been a liberal, and the FL was illiberal.  I knew that Celestin was reportedly involved in illegal activity but I never saw any of that.  I 
did not trust some of his inner circle in Port-au-Prince, especially Patrick Lefevre.  I  always stayed clear of any suspicious activity.  Once during the senate campaign in 1997 I needed 10,000 Haitian Gourds (roughly $500) to pay our poll watchers.  Someone I didn't know came in with cash she said was from the "transport" money.  I refused to accept it and demanded the payments come from regular campaign funds.  I broke with Celestin in 2000 when he refused to support me for a senate seat after I had given three years of loyal service. 
PORT AU PR 00000303  002 OF 003 
 (Lambert waxed especially indignant at this point.)  Can you imagine what his response was to me? I can't support you because you're stronger than I am and too much competition." If Celestin committed all the crimes of which he was accused, Lambert  concluded, he was glad he was in jail.   (Note: Patrick Lefevre, to whom Lambert referred, was at one point director of the state telephone company, Teleco, reportedly gaining the position through Celestin, and assumed to be complicit in siphoning Teleco money to Aristide.  End Note.) 

Go Ask the Peasants 
4.  (C)  Any peasant around Jacmel can tell you who the traffickers are, Lambert continued.  The flights arrive in broad daylight and traffickers make the pickups in broad daylight, often with police officers.  I have people calling 
me all the time to tell me that a drug flight has arrived. The area around Cotes-de-Fer (west of Jacmel), the district I represented locally, is especially active.  I know the police commissaire there is corrupt and I have complained to HNP 
chief Andresol, but the commissaire is still there.  These strips are in the middle of fields -- who owns this land?  I know for a fact that Serge Edouard "Perseverance" is in jail in the U.S., but airplanes continue to land on his property. (Note:  The interim government also rendered Edoaurd, a notorious drug trafficker who adopted the business moniker "Perseverance," to U.S. custody in 2004.  End Note.) 
Let's Cooperate 
5. (C) Lambert repeated his offer made to the Ambassador two weeks earlier to lead the senate in bolstering U.S.-Haitian anti-narcotics cooperation.  "If we need to pass laws, we'll do it."  In the meantime, why isn't the U.S. doing more?  Why aren't there more drug agents working in Haiti?  Lambert added that he would be happy to meet unofficially with U.S. officials, including DEA agents, as a private matter to share his knowledge and contacts about what was occurring in the Jacmel region.  "I can give you the phone numbers of the 
farmers who see these planes landing all the time." 
Celestin Bio Note 
6. (SBU) Jean Marie Fourel Celestin was a doctor in the Haitian army (FAd'H) implicated in assisting the tortue of the Duvalier regime's opponents.  After former President Aristide dissolved the FAd'H in 1994, Celestin immediately 
moved to the palace with a small group of pro-Aristide army officers and ultimately rose to become Aristide's chief of security.  Aristide nominated Celestin to be chief of police in 1996, but the Haitian senate rejected the nomination because of concerns regarding his character and his involvement in corruption, at the time a surprising rebuke of Aristide.  Celestin won a senate seat from the Southeast (Jacmel) department as the Lavalas candidate in 1997, and later became senate president.  Observers widely judged his performance to be incompetent and malfeasant.  At the request of the USG, the interim government of Haiti rendered Celestin to U.S. custody in June 2004.  The U.S. district court in Miami convicted him of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and money laundering later in the year.  Celestin told DEA agents after his conviction that he believed Lambert was involved in 
drug trafficking in Jacmel during their association. 


7. (C) Lambert presents a dilemma for the USG.  Under normal circumstances we would seek close contact with this skilled and ambitious politician who is aiming for the presidency. Our DEA office informs that though additional debriefings of Celestin and other Haitian narcotics traffickers in the U.S. may develop more information regarding Lambert's activities, conclusive information that might lead to an indictment is far from certain.  Whatever Lambert's actual involvement in criminal activities, he is no angel, having hitched his star 
at one point to one of the most unsavory figures in recent Haitian history and come to power in a region awash in proceeds from narcotics trafficking.  At the very least, we can assume he has adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude 
toward his political and business allies.  As president of the national assembly, he has assiduously avoided taking positions on the numerous cases of suspected corruption raised by other parliamentarians, clearly having concluded there is no political advantage in working to uncover 
corruption.  Regarding the most recent charges raised by Senator Jean Gabriel Fortune that Socabank executives bribed senators to impede an investigation (ref A, and septel), Lambert blandly told Polcouns that Fortune was isolated and would remain so unless he could produce proof -- unlikely if Fortune receives no support from parliamentary leaders. Nevertheless, Lambert has been a voice of reason on other issues, and has worked hard to ensure that the senate meets its constitutional duties in a responsible manner.  Post will 
follow up on Lambert's offer to engage in further discussion, if not to clarify his past, then at least to see what future cooperation produces. 

The Election of Joseph Lambert as President of the Haitian Senate is very telling, last year, Guy Philipe, a senator elected under PHTK the same banner of the President Jovenel Moise, and Joseph Lambert, was arrested and extradited to the United States, three day before he was due to take the oath of office as Senator of the Grande Anse Department.

Breaking News: Haitian Senator-elect Guy Phillipe, wanted by the DEA, arrested


In : Corruptions