Duvalier Government Art Forgery Le Proces Des Timbres: L'Affaire Audubon
An unfamiliar aspect of Baby Doc's corrupt rule has received little attention until now. Haitian watercolorist, Jean-Jacques Audubon, bird-life interpreter, became victim to a forgery when fraudulent postage stamps were circulated world-wide as his watercolors. A Haitian attorney and avid stamp collector, with a practiced eye, made the discovery. He notified Duvalier he doubted the stamps were Audubon's original watercolors.
Duvalier reluctantly held an open-court proceeding, and an expert witness gave testimony the stamps were the work of art forgers. Members of Duvalier's government pleaded guilty, convicted and incarcerated. Stamp collectors felt justice was done, and observers said the legal proceedings were an example of a fearless justice system.
But the trial proved to be a ruse of the Duvalier government. The actual offenders were saved by the government, who paid surrogates to stand trial. After sentencing they were sent to a country-club prison where they spent little time before getting out. The message sent the public was crime could be covered up on the pretext of legal proceedings.
Ex-Haitian judge and legal expert, Jean Sénat Fleury has written a book "Le Procés des Timbres: L'Affaire Audubon", which includes the trial transcript along with Fleury's analysis of the art-forgery case.
Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier's regime lasted for over three decades, an era of violent repression and unreasoning paranoia. Many of the upper-class fled to avoid being jailed, or killed by the infamous Tonton Macoutes. Emigration of the professional class created a "brain drain" from which the country has never rebounded.
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