By BBC News
An investigating judge in Haiti has spent four hours questioning the president-elect, Jovenel Moise, about fraud allegations.
Moise – who is due to be sworn into office next month – says he went to the court voluntarily without a lawyer.
Moise asserts all of his business dealings are above board. He blames rivals of manufacturing the allegations to “create instability” in the deeply divided nation with a long history of political tumult and damage his reputation before his swearing-in ceremony.
He also says the allegations are a political smear by his opponents.
The watchdog agency’s leaked report examines bank accounts held by Moise, his wife and his businesses from 2007 until 2013.
Among other things, the administrative report questions sizable deposits into the accounts and purchases of 45 vehicles registered in Moise’s name.
Judge Bredy Fabien, who is also hearing testimony from others, will have to decide whether there’s evidence for a case to proceed or if the matter should be dismissed. It’s a secretive process akin to a U.S. grand jury that can take months.
The judge is also weighing allegations that the state-owned Haitian Popular Bank lent Moise cash without going through the normal procedures, which is a longstanding perk for politically-connected Haitians.
Members of Moise’s Tet Kale party have suggested that the report was leaked at the height of campaigning for a presidential election redo at the urging of outgoing caretaker President Jocelerme Privert’s administration. Privert’s government denies any involvement.
It’s unclear if the judge will rule whether there is a case to answer before Moise takes office on 7 February.
The investigation was launched in 2013 as a routine bank-regulation procedure.
The investigating judge took no action until four opposition senators demanded information about the findings.
Moise in his defense said: “Certain people should not be allowed to exploit the law, to decide the only way to engage in politics is to accuse others of lying.”
The case reflects Haiti’s political divisions.
Moise’s three main rivals in the election contested the results in court and have refused to concede.
The election was held on 20 November, more than a year after the previous poll was annulled following allegations of widespread fraud.
That vote, in October 2015, was won by Moise but opposition challenger Celestin called foul and, after violent unrest, the
ballot was annulled.
Haiti has been blighted by political instability and poverty for decades and is still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2010.