Excerpted from Abbott's:
HAITI: THE DUVALIERS AND THEIR LEGACY
Duvalierist Haiti was about prisons and prisoners, about cruelty and torture and execution and violent death. It was about contemptuous disregard for human rights, about cowardice conquering morality and decency. It was also about greed and corruption and the perversion of values, an ongoing marathon for fortune that dominated government and individuals, sapping them of all moral direction and worth. The 1975 Audubon stamp scandal illustrates beautifully to just what lengths Haiti's leaders would go in their frenzied quest for easy money. The scandal was an almost perfect crime, and only the most unexpected of coincidences uncovered and revealed it. The architects of the stamp scandal were Jean-Claude's sister Nicole, his ambassador to Spain, General Claude Raymond, formerly his chief of staff, Internal Revenue Chief Franck Sterling, Port-au-Prince Airport Security Chief Gabriel Brunet, and Haitian Consul in Miami Eugene "Sonson" Maximilien. Jean-Claude himself was excluded from the scam, and in fact his sister Nicole warned the others that they were dead men should any of them ever reveal her role in the affair.
The scheme was simple. Fake Haitian stamps, exquisite renderings of bird watercolors by native son Jean-Jacques Audubon, were printed in Russia and placed on world philatelist markets. But philatelist societies require authentication of all stamp issues that they promote. The schemers resolved this obstacle by bribing the State Press director to print a single issue of the official government Moniteur announcing the Audubon stamps and validated it with the forged signature of the appropriate Haitian Commerce Ministry official.
The Philatelist Society in Switzerland was satisfied with the apparently genuine Moniteur, endorsed the Audubon stamp issue, and began to advertise it to stamp collectors the world over. The schemers next bribed Haitian postal officials to authenticate the stamps with a first-day-of-issue postmark. Then they delivered them to a Miami Springs bank, entrepreneur for selling them, and began to rake in small fortunes. Nicole Duvalier's share, $4 million, was the largest.
But an avid Haitian stamp collector who was the Commerce Ministry lawyer responsible for approving all stamp issues received an advertisement for the Audubon stamps. Perplexed and suspicious, he notified the Philatelist Society, which forwarded him a copy of the fake Moniteur. The official whose name had been forged denied any knowledge of the Moniteur and the stamps, and soon a national and then an international scandal erupted.
Jean-Claude Duvalier's advisers convinced him that a public trial was essential to cool scorching international disapproval, and so in Haiti's first live television trial, a phalanx of Duvalierist officials confessed their guilt, accused their fellows, and were sentenced to jail. The international collectors were satisfied, for justice was done, and the publicity resulting from the trial gave the stamps additional value. The principal players in the scheme all escaped unscathed, and Nicole Duvalier's name was never mentioned. Some officials found guilty were innocent, but Jean-Claude rewarded them handsomely for their compliance in agreeing to be scapegoats. They were released early from comfortable jail cells and given money, jobs, and cars.
The Audubon stamp scandal proved once again that in Haiti, greed and corruption paid.