Former Haiti coup leader pleads guilty in U.S. drug case

Guy Philippe, an elected Haitian senator and former police commander who eluded capture in Haiti for more than a decade, pleaded guilty Monday in Miami federal court to a drug-related, money-laundering conspiracy charge that could send him to prison for at least nine years.

Philippe, arrested in January, admitted he accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million in cocaine profits from Colombian traffickers for allowing them to use Haiti to ship cocaine to Miami and other parts of the United States between 1999 and 2003.

The following year, Phillipe gained widespread notoriety when he led a revolt to oust Haiti’s president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. By pleading guilty, Philippe avoided the risk of a trial early next month with possible conviction on the main drug-conspiracy charge — and a potential life sentence.

Philippe, 49, admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering stemming from his receipt of cash payments tied to narcotics sales in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Justice Department said.

According to Reuters, the case is U.S. v. Philippe, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 05-cr-20874.

Prosecutors said Philippe, a former high-ranking official in the Haitian National Police, received more than $1.5 million of bribe payments to ensure the safe transit of drug shipments.

The defendant entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Miami.

Zeljka Bozanic, a lawyer for Philippe, said she and prosecutors are recommending that her client receive a nine-year prison term at his scheduled July 5 sentencing.

Two counts against Philippe were dismissed, including one for drug trafficking that could have resulted in a life sentence.

“Mr. Philippe has accepted responsibility by taking the plea,” Bozanic said in a phone interview. “It was an attractive plea offer that makes sense.”

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