A former senior police officer under Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been arrested in Miami-Dade County on charges of drug trafficking.
By SUSANNAH A. NESMITH
Another former high-ranking Haitian National Police officer has been arrested on charges that he conspired to import drugs into the United States, officials confirmed Saturday -- the latest development in a federal inquiry into alleged drug trafficking by members of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's administration.
Rudy Therassan, former commander of an investigations unit of the National Police, was picked up Friday on a U.S. federal warrant alleging that he received payments to protect shipments of cocaine passing through Haiti on their way to the United States.
Therassan is the second senior police official who served under Aristide to be arrested on drug charges recently. Oriel Jean, Aristide's former chief of security, was arrested in Canada in March and extradited to the United States.
Federal officials are investigating whether Aristide received payoffs from drug traffickers who routinely used the Caribbean country as a transshipment point between Colombia and the United States. Aristide fled the country on Feb. 29 amid a spreading rebellion demanding his ouster.
Aristide's attorney, Ira Kurzban, said the investigation into the former president's alleged ties to drug smuggling was politically motivated as the United States tries to distance itself from Aristide.
Therassan could not be reached for comment.
His arrest came after he was stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol while driving on the Palmetto Expressway, according to Carlos Castillo, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Four confidential informants fingered Therassan as an important player in Haiti's drug trade, according to an affidavit prepared by Drug Enforcement Administration agent Noble Harrison.
One of the informants, an unidentified Haitian drug smuggler convicted in Miami, told the DEA that he paid Therassan $150,000 for each planeload that was allowed to land on Route 9, a major highway in Haiti, according to the affidavit.
Therassan was supposed to distribute the money among 15 or 20 other people helping to protect the shipment, the affidavit said. The same informant said that he used homes belonging to Therassan to store the cocaine.
Two other informants told the DEA that they had either seen or heard about Therassan's killing Hector Ketant, brother of accused drug smuggler Beaudoin ''Jacques'' Ketant. Beaudoin Ketant was extradited to the United States a year ago on charges that he moved 15 tons of cocaine through Haiti. He claimed at his sentencing hearing that he made massive payoffs to Aristide's political party and to one of his charities.
One informant, identified only as a cooperating witness, told the DEA that he saw Therassan shoot Hector Ketant after the two men argued over how much Therassan would be paid for protecting the drug shipments, the affidavit says.
Therassan was in contact with the DEA prior to his arrest. After Ketant was killed, he was interviewed by DEA agents in Port-au-Prince and said that he went to Ketant's home to arrest him and that Ketant reached for a gun, forcing Therassan and other officers to shoot him.
However, another informant, described as a former Haitian government official who has been charged in the United States, told the DEA that Therassan received orders ''from a Haitian government official'' in February 2003 to kill Hector Ketant. The informant said Therassan later told him he had done it. Therassan allegedly found a list of Haitian government officials involved in drug trafficking in Ketant's pocket, the informant said.
A fourth informant, a former Haitian police officer who has been given limited immunity in exchange for his cooperation, told the DEA that Therassan told him that drug shipments brought from Colombia often contained caches of weapons.
Property records show that Therassan owns a $350,000 home in Palm Beach County. It is unclear how long he has been in the United States.
Herald staff writer Trenton Daniel contributed to this report.