A South Florida businessman remains jailed in Haiti, and his family is holding on to hope that he will be released before Christmas.
It's not a Christmas wish list that has 6-year-old Priyanka Narine busy these days. You can tell by her drawings of a little girl crying that there's only one thing she wants this year.
"You can see the first thing on my Christmas list is daddy," she said.
It's been five months since her father, Navin Narine, left for an overnight business trip to Haiti working as a consultant for a local telecom company. Instead, he ended up in prison, charged with fraud, money laundering and criminal conspiracy. The Haitian government accused Narine of setting up a pirate phone company, so callers could avoid the hefty long-distance government tax. It's called bypassing, and although it is a civil offense, it is not a crime.
"It never crossed my mind in a million years that something like this would happen to him or to our family," said Narine's wife, Sarah.
She claimed the charges have been leveled by high-ranking government leaders who profit from the tax on long-distance phone calls. The U.S. State Department is involved, as are top officials at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
"Our lawyer keeps saying there is a lot of political interferences in the case and the judge can't do his job because his job is being threatened," Sarah Narine said.
On Monday, Local 10's Roger Lohse sent emails to Congressman Ted Deutch, the U.S. State Department and to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, requesting an update on their efforts to help Narine, a U.S. citizen who all have acknowledged is being held illegally in another country.
Later in the day, Sarah Narine got a call from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.
"So when do you think something will happen?" she said to the woman on the phone.
Sarah Narine was told that U.S. officials are waiting for the judge to make his decision on whether to dismiss the case or proceed to trial. She also acknowledged that Narine is caught in the middle of something bigger than bypassing.
"I will say that this is a political case and so it's difficult. It's something that has to be handled gently," she said.
Unfortunately, there's no gentle way to explain that to tearful 6-year-old girl.
"I miss him a lot and I want him to come home for Christmas and that's all I want for my Christmas present," Priyanka said.
A spokesman for Deutch told Local 10 that the judge, Bernard Sanvil, has reviewed the case file and they are expecting a decision from him. The woman from the Embassy told Sarah Narine the judge would announce his decision sometime Tuesday.