PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A wealthy US businessman who is seeking to run for president of his native Haiti could face criminal charges for allegedly making false claims when he filed candidacy papers, electoral officials said yesterday.
Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council has submitted a criminal complaint to the country's chief prosecutor, alleging that Dumarsais Simeus falsely claimed to have met residency, citizenship, and property requirements in his longshot bid for president of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, said Andre Joel Petithomme, a lawyer for the election agency.
The charges carry a potential sentence of three to five years in prison, but Haiti's chief prosecutor said he had not yet decided whether to pursue the case.
Simeus, who has pledged to use his business skills to help rebuild the shattered economy of his native land, said he would continue to seek the presidency in the first elections since a violent rebellion forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to flee the country in February 2004.
''I'm very surprised and disappointed by these maneuvers," Simeus said.
The electoral council had previously said Simeus could not be a candidate because he holds US citizenship, and Haiti's constitution prohibits anyone with dual nationality from being president.
But the Texas businessman appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the council had failed to prove he has US citizenship.
Two days after that decision, interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said that he had formed a commission to evaluate the nationality of all 34 presidential candidates and that the Supreme Court would no longer be allowed to intervene in electoral issues.
The elections, which have been postponed twice, are now expected to be held in mid-December to replace the interim government set up after Aristide's ouster.
Simeus, the owner of a food services company, said that he would not cooperate with the commission reviewing the citizenship claims of the presidential candidates and that the opposition to his candidacy is simply a fear of the ''radical change" that he offers the troubled nation.