A Swiss law set to go into effect Feb. 1 – the law on returning illicit dictator funds – will allow the Swiss government to return that money to the Haitian people. Last May, the head of international law at the Swiss foreign ministry told reporters that the Swiss government would likely apply the law to the Duvalier funds.
There was a caveat: If Haitian authorities had the opportunity to capture and prosecute Duvalier, the Swiss law could not be used. Hence, if Duvalier made a brief appearance in Haiti – he had a return ticket for Thursday – he could go back to France and claim the money.
“If he went to Haiti and was not prosecuted, he could have returned and said ‘I was there and they had their chance,’ ” says Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch and a former prosecutor in Haiti. Duvalier “may have gone hoping that he would not be detained and could come back to France and claim the $6.2 million.”
Duvalier may have believed he would not be prosecuted because, in many ways, he believes he did nothing wrong, says biographer Elizabeth Abbott, who chronicled the rise and fall of Duvalier and his father, “Papa Doc,” in a 1991 book.
“I don’t think he has any idea of the destruction he wrought,” Ms. Abbott says. “I’m sure he was thrilled to be back but he doesn’t see that he did anything that was wrong. He’s said that he made a few mistakes.”
Abbott says Duvalier appears physically weak and frail. Many who remember his plump mustachioed face from before he fled in 1986 wonder whether health problems prompted his return.