money, says the old adage of investigative journalism. A
crusading Dominican journalist did just that with dozens of
financial documents from some Dominican construction firms and
uncovered shocking results.
Over the course of 2011, Michel Joseph Martelly, as a candidate,
president-elect, and president of Haiti, received close to $2.6
million in over a dozen payments from a Dominican Senator named Félix Bautista, according to an explosive Mar. 31 television
report by star Dominican journalist Nuria Piera.
The alleged bribes were likely connected to securing three
post-earthquake multi-million public works contracts dubiously
won by Bautista-controlled Dominican construction companies,
according to Nuria’s report and to Haitian government documents
obtained by Haïti Liberté.
allegations come when President Martelly is already besieged by
a Haitian Senate investigation into whether he and his Prime
Minister nominee, Laurent Lamothe, may hold or have held dual
citizenship, which is prohibited by Haitian law.
If Nuria’s charges prove true, wholly or even partially, they may
deal a mortal blow to Martelly’s presidency. Already, Deputy
Arnel Belizaire, who was illegally arrested last November on
Martelly’s orders, says he is close to calling for the convening
of Parliament’s High Court of Justice to impeach the President.
Another deputy, Tholbert Alexis, told Scoop FM that he would
push for a special commission to look into Nuria Piera’s
Several payments to Martelly allegedly came from the bank
accounts of two Bautista-owned firms which have won major
contracts in Haiti. Constructora Hadom is slated to
rebuild Haiti’s Legislative Palace (housing Parliament),
destroyed in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, for $33.77 million,
while Constructora Rofi S.A. was tapped to build a new
housing development in the quake-devastated Port-au-Prince
neighborhood of Fort National for $174.31 million.
Construcciones y Diseños R.M.N. S.A., also linked to
Bautista, won a $135.31 million contract to build a housing
development on Bowen Field, Haiti’s former military airport in
short, all three contracts, totaling $343.32 million, were
granted to three companies all owned by or connected to Sen. Félix Ramon Bautista Rosario, who is also the secretary of the
ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) headed by President
Leonel Fernández. Constructora Hadom is 98% owned by
Bautista, Nuria’s documents show. Bautista also owns
Constructora Rofi. Two very close associates of Bautista,
Rosalin Marta Novas and Jose Bolivar Ventura, own
Construcciones y Diseños R.M.N..
However, the contracts, approved on Nov. 8, 2010 by former Prime
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, were the target of an audit by
Martelly’s Prime Minister Garry Conille, who was forced on
Martelly by Washington in October 2011. Martelly forced Conille
to resign in February 2012 after the prime minister refused to
call off the audit of those three contracts (and 38 others with
Dominican companies) as the president had ordered.
Rumors have swirled around Haiti and its diaspora for weeks that
Conille was fired for undertaking the audit and that it
contained information damaging to both Bellerive and Martelly.
But in an Apr. 3 note from Martelly’s Communications office, the
president claimed that he was the one who insisted on the audit
“which he would never have demanded if he was colluding with
the beneficiaries of these contracts considered dubious by his
President Martelly has denied Nuria Piera’s charges in Tweets he
sent out at about 7 p.m. on Apr. 2. “The Presidency of the
Republic categorically rejects the allegations that the
President of the Republic, HE Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly, has
been involved in any corruption case involving firms or
individuals from the Dominican Republic,” Martelly wrote via
Twitter, calling Piera’s report “accusations that are
fantasies and unjustly made against the head of state” which
“are part of a larger campaign to poison public opinion and
to smear the image of President Martelly and undermine his
Martelly’s Tweets concluded by saying “this attack waged
against the head of state is part of a campaign trying to
obstruct the policy of change and modernization of the state
that the President of the Republic is beginning to establish in
The same evening, Martelly’s spokesperson, Lucien Jura, took to
the airwaves to deny Nuria Piera’s report.
Piera also said that Mirlande Manigat, Martelly’s opponent in
the Mar. 20, 2011 presidential run-off, received a cash payment
of $250,000 on Feb. 18, 2011. The head of Manigat’s campaign,
Sen. Youri Latortue, claimed that he knew nothing about the
payment. Manigat also denied that she or her campaign had
received any such money. “They say that this is a credible
journalist, but she was wrong,” Manigat said.
Last week, in a response to an article in Haïti Liberté,
Bellerive also denounced criticism of the contracts as “an
obviously sponsored press campaign” (he did not say by whom)
and a “media lynching,” arguing that “due to their
geographical proximity, Dominican firms were in good position to
However, a highly placed Dominican Republic-based source who
provided Haïti Liberté with the bids and contracts was
outraged. “The closed bid with three companies belonging to
the same person is a nightmare,” he said, venturing the
following analysis. “I believe that Uncle Sam was concerned
that the scandal was so great and obvious that it could
discourage international donors to give more money to the
country... Bellerive was sloppy... The PM [Conille] at first was
not going for a witch-hunt but was simply trying to annul those
contracts to redo them. I don't think he was prepared to endorse
this disaster. But the President took offense at his
The contracts were approved in November 2011 by a committee:
Michel Content, Lionel Grand'pierre, and Hervey Day. All three
are close associates of Bellerive. Day, who headed the
committee, is Bellerive's cousin. Later, Day would be named by
President Martelly as the Planning Minister, a post also held by
Bellerive while he was the Prime Minister. Conille had also
wanted to hold the Planning Minister’s post but was denied it by
Martelly. The post is key since the Planning Minister handles
most of the reconstruction contracts.
true that Félix Bautista presented us with several Dominican
companies because we asked Leonel Fernández to help us find
companies willing to work right away — even without advance
payment,” Bellerive told the Miami Herald, adding
that he “did not know [Bautista] was owner of shares in those
The Dominican Republic’s National Directorate of Prosecution of
Administrative Corruption told the Herald that it was now
investigating Bautista, who represents San Juan de la Maguana,
Piera’s report also pointed to apparent bribes being paid to
many high-ranking officials in the PLD and the Dominican
also said that Sen. Bautista is fabulously rich, owning about
$10.44 million worth of real estate around the DR.
Bautista has also denied any wrong doing but has a very
checkered past. In 2000, he was jailed for corruption and
mismanagement of government funds, and was charged with the same
in 2007. He has also been under investigation for links to the
notorious Puerto Rican drug lord Figueroa Agosto.
Piera alleges that the payments made by Bautista’s
companies to Michel Martelly were as follows:
● On Mar. 17,
2011, three days before Haiti’s presidential election,
$300,000 and $200,000 were transferred from the bank
Acct. # 240-005129-7 of Diseño de Obras Civiles y Electo
or DOCE, which Bautista owns.
● On Apr. 4,
2011, $300,000 directly, and another $300,000 as
cash via Ricardo Jacobo, was delivered from DOCE’s bank Acct. #
● On Nov. 3,
2011, $100,000 was transferred from DOCE’s bank Acct. #
● On Nov. 5,
2011, $150,000 was paid from Constructora Hadom’s
Banco Popular Acct. # 766-215511.
● During 2011,
payments of $400,000, $300,100, and $100,000
were made from Constructora Rofi to a Unibank acct.
● During 2011,
another $37,000 was transferred from Constructora Rofi
in cash via Victor Reynoso.
The total amount transferred by Bautista-controlled
companies to Martelly in 2011 was $2,587,100, according “only
to the reports that we have in our possession,” reported
Nuria Piera, suggesting that there may have been even more
kickbacks. Her program “Nuria Investigacion” is said to
be the Dominican Republic’s highest-rated television show.