The Truth About The Jean-Claude Duvalier Heist

Heists are typically imagined as daring forays into protected vaults within banks and casinos, but history's biggest examples tend to be much less dramatic and much more sinister. One of the largest heists in history was committed by Haiti's own president as he skimmed off the top of his struggling country's coffers, as reported by ONE. From 1971, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier led the Caribbean nation, inheriting the position from his father "Papa Doc" when he was just 19. In 1986, he was ousted from his position and exiled to France.

Duvalier left most of the responsibilities to his advisors and cabinet members, living a lavish lifestyle while his subordinates tortured and killed political enemies. Every year he ruled, it's alleged he stole around 2-4% of Haiti's entire GDP, which was already the lowest of any country in the Western Hemisphere. The money has yet to be entirely located and returned.

Jean-Claude Duvalier lived almost entirely off stolen Haitian money

Jean-Claude Duvalier's father — Francois, also known as "Papa Doc" — began a brutal, deadly regime that terrorized the Haitian populace. When Baby Doc took over as a teenager, he was quick to make a few cosmetic improvements, releasing some prisoners and easing press censorship. Still, he largely followed in his father's footsteps by putting the old regime's advisors in charge. As for Duvalier, he focused his energy on living in luxury. He dined regularly at the finest restaurants in Port-au-Prince and used state funds to pay for his extravagant $2 million wedding in 1980. Those who opposed the Duvalier rule found themselves tortured or sent to a squalid prison where they promptly disappeared — just like during the reign of Papa Doc.

After 25 years of exile in France, Duvalier returned to his former home under the guise of wanting to rebuild after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. But according to The Guardian, Duvalier was really hoping to use the earthquake as an excuse to recover millions from frozen Swiss bank accounts — a remnant of his fortune pilfered from the pockets of his impoverished country. American officials estimated the disgraced leader held funds in foreign bank accounts totaling anywhere from $200-$500 million at the time of his 1986 exile. The funds were allegedly spent on meals, villas, vacations, tax disputes, fine art, divorces, jazz club outings, and more. To make the situation even more tragic, Duvalier never lived to see true justice, as he died of a heart attack at the age of 63. And because he was able to escape trial, the true extent of his looting might never be known, leaving his stolen fortunes unrecovered.