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How strong are charges against Haiti's Jean-Claude Duvalier? Very, say experts.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier (aka 'Baby Doc') was charged in court Tuesday with embezzlement, corruption, and misappropriation of funds. 'It’s fairly easy to pursue legally,' says one expert.

Haiti's ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier (c.) gestures to supporters as police take him out of his hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Jan. 18. Haitian police took Duvalier, who abruptly returned to Haiti on Sunday, out of his hotel to a waiting SUV without saying whether he was being detained for crimes committed under his brutal regime.

Ramon Espinosa/AP

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During his 15 years in power, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is said to have brazenly robbed Haiti’s treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars.

He is accused of going as far as stealing checks intended for the poor to help him amass hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign accounts that allowed him to live luxuriously while in exile.

But the same disregard for the law that made him a multimillionaire could make the case against him relatively easy to prosecute, observers tell the Monitor.

“He was fairly careful to hide the assets abroad, but he was not that careful to hide the way he acquired them,” says Brian Concannon, a human rights lawyer and director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). “I am confident that this case can be prosecuted, it’s fairly easy to pursue legally because it’s been documented.”

Dramatically detained and formally charged in court on Tuesday by Haitian authorities, just two days after unexpectedly returning from exile, Mr. Duvalier’s future is now being weighed by a judge who will decide whether to pursue the accusations of embezzlement, corruption, and misappropriation of funds, among other alleged crimes. The process could take months.


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