A Canadian Mansion Becomes a Symbol of Haiti’s Disintegration

As for Model FM, Mr. Célestin revealed that he founded it in a small town and eventually moved it to a suburb of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where it is now broadcasting from. There is a modest, unmarked office for the station in the Petionville suburb. Both visits by The Times were met with shuttered offices or a single employee who was unable to provide any information on the station, including advertising rates.

PetroGaz-Haiti was owned by Mr. Célestin, but he said it looked to contravene legal limitations against benefitting from state funding, according to his own description. As long as politicians are allowed to own businesses, the Constitution bars them from having contracts with the government, which Mr. Célestin claimed he had for four years through his company.

In February, the Haitian government’s Anti-Corruption Unit initiated an investigation into the acquisition of the Célestin mansion in Canada, which had sparked fury in the nation. It was not clear if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the country’s national police arm, was also examining the transaction. Garry Clement, the former chief of a R.C.M.P. money laundering section, said the purchase should have triggered a red signal under Canadian standards.

In accordance with Canadian money-laundering legislation, Mr. Célestin is deemed a “politically exposed person,” which implies that financial institutions must conduct due diligence to discover the source of any transferred cash exceeding $100,000. Mr. Clement indicated that Mrs. Célestin, as the wife of a “P.E.P.”, would also be subject to these laws.

Everything, according to Mr. Célestin, was legal in the acquisition. According to him, he consistently sent $20-30 million to Turkey to buy iron for what he described as one of his import firms “if I wasn’t clean, I would have had a lot of trouble with the banks in Miami,” he claimed. In the event that my money wasn’t legitimate, “I’d be terrified.”

However, both Mr. Célestin and his Montreal lawyer, Alexandre Bergevin, refused to answer any further inquiries or reveal the names of their import company or farm. After a request for comment was made, his wife, a counsellor at the Haitian consulate in Montreal since 2019, did not react.