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4516: This Week in Haiti 18:16 7/5/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 5 - 11, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 16
HAITIAN AIRLINE OWNER DENIES INVOLVEMENT
IN ALLEGED DRUG SMUGGLING RING
"My name is totally identified with my airline," said Haiti's
foremost aviation entrepreneur. "When people hear 'Air d'Ayiti,'
they hear the name Charles Voigt."
Mr. Voigt, 53, is now trying to clear both his name and that of
Air d'Ayiti after a major drug bust last week at the Opa Locka
Airport in Miami involving both his brother, his sister-in-law,
and a company from which he leases aircraft.
Air d'Ayiti is an upstart Haitian airline, launched in 1997,
which flies three times a week between Port-au-Prince and Miami.
Going up against the near-monopoly of American Airlines on U.S.-
Haiti routes, Air d'Ayiti is not having an easy time of it. News
of the drug bust isn't helping.
"I am learning about this matter from news reports, just like
everybody else," Mr. Voigt told Haïti Progrès. "Now people are
getting afraid that 'Air d'Ayiti' is trafficking in drugs and
illegal aliens, and it's just not true. I am doing everything I
can to set the record straight."
The trouble began on Jun. 24, when U.S. Customs agents seized a
Cessna Caravan aircraft laden with four suitcases containing 95
kilos (249.5 lbs.) of cocaine after it landed at 9:30 p.m.,
according to a Jun. 26 affidavit by Customs Agent Sheila Hurry. A
U.S. Customs Citation jet and Blackhawk helicopter had followed
the aircraft since its departure from Nassau, Bahamas, about an
hour earlier. The Caravan did not report to the U.S. Customs
station on the Opa Locka airfield after it arrived, and Customs
agents moved in. As they did, Antonin Voigt, 43, Charles Voigt's
younger brother, reportedly jumped from the plane and fled on
foot. The agents arrested the American pilot of the aircraft,
Robert Karns, 63.
Soon Anicet Voigt, Antonin's 41-year-old wife, who had come to
the airport to meet the alleged traffickers, approached the
plane. Karns immediately implicated her, and she was arrested.
About four hours later, Antonin tried to call his wife on her
cell-phone, but it was now in the hands of federal agents, who
answered. After a discussion, he agreed to cooperate with them.
They took him into custody at the Miami International Airport.
Next, the Customs agents used Karns and Antonin to snare four
others in the alleged smuggling ring. Karns called a certain
Mathieu Noel, who was supposed to receive eight kilos of cocaine.
On Jun. 25, at around 5 a.m., Karns met Noel in the parking lot
of the Denny's Restaurant on 36th Street and 72nd Ave. in Miami.
After Noel placed two suitcases of drugs in his Toyota 4-Runner,
police arrested him and his passenger, Sylvera Mathurin, who was
supposed to received 28 kilos of the shipment. Noel told police
that he was supposed to pick up the cocaine from Antonin Voigt
and sell it.
Later that day, an unidentified person from Haiti called Antonin
to instruct him to contact Raymond Joseph regarding a cocaine
delivery to Rochembeau Dolciné, who was supposed to get 50 kilos.
Under the direction of U.S. agents, Antonin met Joseph in a hotel
room at the Miami Airport Holiday Inn, where Joseph was presented
with two suitcases of supposed drugs. Agents arrested Joseph, who
also agreed to cooperate.
At 2:40 p.m., Dolciné, who had just arrived on a flight from
Haiti, called Joseph from Miami International Airport asking to
be picked up. Joseph told him that he was with Voigt and that
they had the "stuff," the affadavit alleges. Dolciné then called
Antonin, and they arranged to meet at the same Holiday Inn.
Antonin presented Dolciné with the suitcases, and then Dolciné
was arrested. All seven suspects are to be charged in U.S.
Southern District Court with drug trafficking. The shipment
seized was worth about $2.3 million, Customs officials said.
Customs agents also seized a second Caravan at Ft. Lauderdale
Executive Airport. Reuters erroneously reported, and other media
repeated, that the two seized aircraft belonged to "Air d'Ayiti."
In truth, they belonged to Maxfly Aviation, one of four U.S.
companies from which Charles Voigt leases aircraft for "Air
d'Ayiti Express," a commuter shuttle with routes from Port-au-
Prince to Cap Haïtien, Port-de-Paix, and Jérémie.
"Those aircraft which we lease have to go back to the U.S. after
every 100 hours of flight time for service and maintenance,"
Charles Voigt explained. "When they leave Haiti, they are no
longer under my control or jurisdiction. Our commuter airline has
no [landing] rights to go into Nassau or the U.S. The aircraft
owners are just supposed to take their aircraft back to the U.S.
to be serviced."
The other companies Air d'Ayiti Express leases aircraft from are
Karns Aviation, Bimini Island Air, and Creston Aviation, Charles
Complicating matters is that Antonin Voigt was employed by Air
d'Ayiti to run Air d'Ayiti Express, which has temporarily
suspended operations. How did Charles Voigt feel when he learned
that his brother is charged with drug trafficking?
"I was shocked," Charles said. "He is a doctor. I can't
understand it at all. I am going to the U.S. where I hope to
speak to him and find out what is going on."
The documents of Customs officials, who had been monitoring the
alleged drug smuggling operation since Mar. 30, do not indicate
that Charles Voigt had any involvement in or knowledge of the
activities of his brother and sister-in-law.
Also, Anicet Voigt seems to have been fearful of the trafficking.
Karns claimed that she suggested stopping the operation after
each run, according to the Customs affidavit. Nonetheless, on two
occasions, she delivered $70,000 and $50,000 to Noel in a mall
In 1987, Charles Voigt founded of Haiti Trans-Air, which ran
flights between Port-au-Prince and Miami for eight years. Air
d'Ayiti is a brand-new effort, which he hopes will not be sunk by
irresponsible reporting. Le Matin carried a banner headline this
week accusing Air d'Ayiti of involvement in the trafficking.
"Putting Air d'Ayiti together involves a lot of money and a lot
of work," Mr. Voigt said. "I am very mad that the press has not
tried to get the real story. Charles Voigt and Air d'Ayiti are
not involved in transporting drugs or illegal aliens. When they
print stories without trying to find the truth, that is just
Meanwhile, Frank Figueroa, the chief Customs agent in Miami,
declared that the seizure was "concrete evidence drug cartels are
utilizing the Caribbean for air smuggling operations in addition
to go-fast boats and freighters arriving from the Bahamas and
Haiti." The seizure of the shipment brought in by Karns and
Antonin Voigt can be expected to be used as one more
justification for U.S. browbeating of the Haitian government and
incursions into Haitian waters and airspace.
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