A Haitian politician and former coup leader has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to conspiring to launder drug money.
Guy Philippe took a plea deal Monday, admitting to a Miami court that he accepted more than $1.5 million from drug smugglers while he was a high ranking police official in Haiti. The deal will likely allow Philippe to avoid a potential sentence of life in prison for cocaine smuggling.
Prosecutors are recommending that Philippe receive a nine-year prison term at his sentencing in July.
Philippe, 49, is accused of using his position in the Haitian National Police from 1999 to 2003 to accept bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for protecting their narcotics shipments headed to the United States. The U.S. Justice Department said Philippe gave some of the bribe money to other Haitian police and security personnel to ensure their cooperation. Philippe used his cut of the money, in part, to buy a house in Florida.
Philippe also faces a $1.5 million fine at his July sentencing.
The defendant led a 2004 Haitian uprising that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced to flee the country. Philippe was elected to the Haitian parliament in November, but before he could be sworn into office he was arrested in early January in Haiti and quickly extradited to the United States.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga rejected Philippe's claim that he is immune from prosecution because he is an elected Haitian official. The judge noted that Philippe had not yet been officially sworn in to office.
Philippe was indicted in the United States in 2005 and had avoided capture for more than a decade, including at least 10 escapes from Haitian police.
The defendant has been held at a federal detention center in Miami since he was extradited to the United States.