- Wilner Etienne denies wrongdoing and says claim is a ‘pure lie’
- Fifa investigations continue into other Haiti officials
A Fifa investigation into a former technical director of the Haitian Football Federation accused of raping several female players under the age of 18 remains unresolved more than a year after he was suspended.
Wilner Etienne was provisionally suspended for 90 days by Fifa’s ethics committee last August as part of its investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by the then FHF president, Yves Jean-Bart, and other officials. Jean-Bart was banned for life after being found guilty of abusing his position and having sexually harassed and abused female players, including minors. Nela Joseph – a former supervisor of Haiti’s under-20 women’s team – received a 10-year ban in May for “actively coercing” players into having sex with Jean-Bart.
Etienne’s provisional suspension, having been extended in November, expired on 26 February. Fifa is continuing to investigate Etienne, who is planning to stand in an election to be mayor of Tabarre, his home town.
Fifa said: “As a general policy, the independent ethics committee does not comment on potential ongoing proceedings nor on whether or not investigations are under way into alleged cases.”
One alleged victim who did not want to be named told the Guardian that Etienne, a former journalist who took over as technical director in 2012, raped her at the Kingdom hotel in 2017. “I was underage, he drove me to the hotel and raped me by force,” she said. “I had no choice. I was crying and he didn’t give a shit. He left straight away after.
“Even today, I’m crying when I talk about it. I couldn’t forget what he did to me. I will never forget.”
Etienne has strongly denied the allegations and said he had never visited the Kingdom hotel before March 2019, when he had helped to establish a new radio station called Kingdom FC.
The hotel is located six kilometres from the Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets, known locally as “the ranch”. A former employee of the hotel said she saw Etienne there before March 2019 with other players who were minors. “Wilner came to the hotel with underage girls and brought girls to other important people.”
A former employee of the FHF said: “He had sexual relations with underage girls at the ranch. There was a competition with some of them and Wilner took advantage of some. There were two scandals at the ranch about it but he was much more discreet than Dadou [Jean-Bart].”
Etienne said that was a “pure lie”. “From north to south and from east to west everyone knows me as a moral person, respectable and responsible,” he said. “I would like to clarify that I do not take underage girls neither in the centre nor elsewhere. Why? I am not sick. I don’t take girls and I didn’t make any arrangements for other people.
“It’s criminal and it’s for sick people. This employee you are talking about, no doubt, was drunk and mad.
“I challenge Fifa, the whole world to prove that I do these things to people. For history and truth and for your information, I am Wilner Etienne. I speak on the radio all over the country. I have nothing to hide.”
Fifa has also yet to conclude its investigation into the FHF’s former executive secretary Fenelus Guerrier, who has been accused of blackmailing girls into having sex with him so they would be granted visas to travel to the United States.
Guerrier and Rosnick Grant – the former president of the FHF’s referees’ commission who was banned for life by Fifa in July after being found guilty of sexual harassment, were contacted last August by the ethics committee and asked to provide written statements after being informed they were subjects of the investigation.
Two more alleged victims have since come forward to claim they were also blackmailed by Guerrier, who did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
“The only way for me to obtain my papers back was to ‘give him some love’ as he said,” one said. “He didn’t do it only to me but to several girls. He was in charge of the documentation and sometimes kept the passports. He sent me Facebook messages about it, he didn’t hide it.”
A second alleged victim said: “All the girls in Haiti need a visa to the US: it’s like the dream. They took advantage of it, of our poverty. Fenelus knew and also took advantage of it.”
(By Ed Aarons, Romain Molina and Alex Cizmic, The Guardian, 30.09.2021)