Crisis in Haiti | Sanctioned Haitian leader says Canada used his property for evacuations

Crisis in Haiti | Sanctioned Haitian leader says Canada used his property for evacuations
Crisis in Haiti | Sanctioned Haitian leader says Canada used his property for evacuations

The Canadian government used a Haitian leader’s property to helicopter evacuate its citizens as violence escalated last month, while refusing to remove him from a sanctions list, according to a Federal Court motion.


Posted at 7:49 p.m.

Darryl Greer

The Canadian Press

In December 2022, the Canadian government sanctioned Reynold Deeb and two other “high-level members of the economic elite in Haiti,” Global Affairs Canada said at the time.

In his latest application to the Federal Court, as he seeks to be removed from the sanctions list, Mr Deeb denies any links to violent gangs plaguing the country and says he is “deeply involved in philanthropy community”.

He says his notoriety was highlighted when the RCMP and Canada’s ambassador asked him to allow them to use his property for police training exercises and helicopter evacuations of Canadian citizens early last month.

He maintains he was “happy to agree” to provide help. But even though the Canadian government turned to him “in times of crisis,” it refused to lift sanctions against him, he said.

“It is unclear why the Government of Canada was simultaneously asking Mr. Deeb to use his assets and maintaining sanctions against him,” his request for judicial review states.

Mr. Deeb says his inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list is “erroneous” and that those who find themselves sanctioned suffer “severe reputational damage”, while being denied financial services and employment opportunities, and are subject to travel restrictions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the sanctions were imposed in 2022 “in response to the egregious behavior of Haitian elites who provide illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs.”

The Canadian government has accused Mr. Deeb, Gilbert Bigio and Sherif Abdallah of protecting “armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption.”

Mr. Deeb filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada in November to force the minister to make a decision on his request to be removed from the sanctions list.

In a second application to the Federal Court filed last month, he argued that the minister rejected his referral request in March without disclosing her reasons “in any meaningful way.”

The document states that he is a “reputed businessman,” working as purchasing director for the Deka Group, a collective of companies that are the “major importers of consumer goods in Haiti.”

The Canadian ambassador requested his help the same day the Minister of Foreign Affairs refused to remove him from the sanctions list, according to his request.

The document said the minister’s decision was based on “open Source” information about her alleged corruption, tax evasion and gang financing activities.

He also reportedly has close ties to former president Michel Martelly and sanctioned politician Gary Bodeau.

He claims that the Canadian government wrongly relied on this information in deciding to impose sanctions on him, thereby denying him “procedural fairness”.

In an interview, his lawyers, John Boscariol and Geoff Hall, said he emailed Canadian embassy officials to thank them for using his property to stage helicopter evacuations and drills. RCMP training for Haitian police officers.

Hall said the “remarkable” emails show that Canadian embassy officials and the RCMP were grateful to Reynold Deeb for allowing the use of his property, “which is in fact contrary to sanctions law for Canadians who use the property of those who are sanctioned.”

The two lawyers stressed that their client felt unfairly slandered by his inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list and that he is “an ally of Canada.”

“What the government seems to have done is scour the internet for the insinuations that are circulating, and that’s problematic,” Mr. Hall lamented.

Mr. Deeb has not been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union or the United Kingdom, but being sanctioned by Canada has “a significant impact on his reputation,” according to Mr. Boscariol.

“These decisions do not appear to have been carefully considered by the Canadian government, which has not done due diligence or provided evidence to support some of the allegations it is making. »

Global Affairs Canada did not provide the requested response to the claims about Mr. Deeb by the deadline.

“Mr Deeb is a victim of many things”

A United Nations Security Council report, written by a group of experts in Haiti and published in September 2023, argued that it had evidence that Mr. Deeb was involved in gang financing activities while he worked as Operations Director of Deka Group.

The report says he “paid a gang leader to facilitate his business” in 2017 and “used gang members to pressure certain port customs officers not to inspect or intercept its containers”.

The report notes that by the end of 2019, Haiti was paralyzed by economic upheaval as political pressure intensified against then-President Jovenel Moïse, and that Mr. Deeb allegedly took advantage “by bribing parliamentarians who then paid gang leaders to unblock the streets by dispersing demonstrators and allow the transport of his merchandise into the country.”

His lawyers deny these allegations. “Mr. Deeb is a victim of many things,” Mr. Boscariol said. It is a major importer and distributor of retail products in Haiti, but it too suffers from the gang’s activities. »

Reynold Deeb is one of 11 Haitians sanctioned by Canada for “a serious violation of international peace and security” under the Special Economic Measures Act.

Thirteen other people are on the list for “significant acts of corruption” and four are on the sanctions list for “gross human rights violations”.

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