Klaus Eberwein, the Clinton Foundation, and Fake News

The above image shows the top results for the phrase “Klaus Eberwein” on Google. Eberwein was a former Haitian official who apparently committed suicide several days ago in Miami; the Miami Herald reported the incident on 12 July:

…it appears that Eberwein had fallen on hard times. An Uber spokesperson confirmed that he worked as a driver for awhile in South Florida.

During and after his government tenure, Eberwein faced allegations of fraud and corruption on how the agency he headed administered funds. Among the issues was FAES’ [Fonds d’Assistance Economique et Sociale] oversight of shoddy construction of several schools built after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.

Eberwein was scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Haitian Senate’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the head of the commission, Sen. Evalière Beauplan confirmed. The commission is investigating the management of PetroCaribe funds, the money Haiti receives from Venezuela’s discounted oil program.

This PetroCaribe context can be confirmed by Haitian media – Le Nouvelliste wrote about Beauplan and the Commission on 7 July.

A couple of days after the Miami Herald article, however, a contribution at YourNewsWire by one Baxter Dmitry offered an alternative take on the story:

…Eberwein was due to appear next Tuesday before the Haitian Senate Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission where he was widely expected to testify that the Clinton Foundation misappropriated Haiti earthquake donations from international donors.

According to Eberwein, a paltry 0.6% of donations granted by international donors to the Clinton Foundation with the express purpose of directly assisting Haitians actually ended up in the hands of Haitian organizations. A further 9.6% ended up with the Haitian government. The remaining 89.8%  – or $5.4 billion – was funneled to non-Haitian organizations.

The Clinton Foundation, they are criminals, they are thieves, they are liars, they are a disgrace,” Eberwein said at a protest outside the Clinton Foundation headquarters in Manhattan last year.

This version has now been widely disseminated by alternative news sources, and appears to form the basis for the two headlines that reference Clinton given above. In the case of WND – Donald Trump’s go-to site during his Birther period – the incident is further evidence of a “Clinton death list”. The Dmitry article also prompted a video by the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich.

Here are some problems:

1. There have been anti-Clinton protests in New York, organised by a group called the Committee Against Dictatorship in Haiti (var. Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti, KOMOKODA). However, no reports link Eberwein with this group or state that he attended any protests. The presence of a former government official at such protests (he left FAES in February 2015) ought to have been of some note at the time.

2. The supposed Eberwein quote “The Clinton Foundation, they are criminals” appears to be variation of a quote attributed to the protest group’s head, Dahoud Andre, by the BBC News in November 2016:

“The Clinton family, they are crooks, they are thieves, they are liars,” says Haitian activist Dahoud Andre.

He has been leading protests outside the Clinton Foundation headquarters in Manhattan and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign base in Brooklyn for the last two years.

The claim that the Clinton Foundation is “a disgrace” appears as a quote from Donald Trump in the same article.

3. I can’t find any quotes from Eberwein about Clinton or the Clinton Foundation.

4. The PetroCaribe scandal, noted by the Miami Herald but ignored by the conspiracy sites, was given as the reason for Eberwein’s departure at the time:

À rappeler qu’au début du mois de février courant, le journaliste Valéry Numa a rapporté les propos de l’ancien Directeur général du FAES qui avait affirmé que « l’État haïtien a dépensé 50 millions de dollars pour les initiatives sociales sur le 1.3 milliard de dette de Petro Caribe ». Ces 50 millions de dollars dépensés représentent environ 4% du montant total du Fonds pétro caribe.

Au lendemain de la vulgarisation de ces informations, les locaux du FAES, situés à Delmas 75, ont été badigeonnés de matières fécales. Ce, en signe de protestation contre la gestion de l’institution par l’ancien Directeur général, Klaus Eberwein.

5. A Haitian news site called Rezo Nòdwès apparently has a statement by Eberwein’s widow, in which she states that her husband was innocent of the corruption allegations but that he had become depressed about it. Again, no reference to the Clintons anywhere.

6. Baxter Dmitry appears to be notorious even among conspiracy theorists as a purveyor of fake news. He is also responsible for items such as “Retired MI5 Agent Confesses On Deathbed: ‘I Killed Princess Diana”, along with “Pope Francis: ‘Relationships With Jesus Are Dangerous And Harmful’” and “The 1918 Influenza Epidemic Was Caused By Vaccines”, among much else. Indeed, the entire YourNewswire website is a fake news site, run by a man named Sean Adl-Tabatabai in collaboration with his mother. The site was discussed The Times in January (paywalled, although a derivative article can be found at The Drum).

Dmitry himself is obscure (indeed, it’s not even clear that he even exists), but WND is a significant media player when it comes to conservative news and opinion (often with a religious slant, too) – and as noted above, its headlines are promoted by Google.

UPDATE: The false story has now been debunked on Snopes, but this has not affected the appetite for the false version.

The Clinton link claim has also now been promoted on the German-language version of the Russian news-site RT, in a derivative article by the former communist spy Rainer Rupp. The piece is listed as an op-ed (“Meinung”), and the headline includes a hedging question-mark, but its purpose is obviously to spread fake news.