Haiti presidential candidate Celestin has financial woes in South Florida

Jude Célestin, President René Préval's hand-picked successor in the Nov. 28 presidential election, has amassed a long list of liens and foreclosure problems on his South Florida homes, public records show.

Célestin and longtime acquaintance Tania Chihimie purchased a home in Weston in 2006 -- the height of the South Florida real estate boom -- for $1.1 million, the records show.

Earlier this year, the house was placed in foreclosure and the lender is seeking $1.06 million. The 5,117 square-foot home, which fronts a canal, has outstanding taxes of $13,961, Broward County records show.

The property was one of three homes that Célestin purchased in South Florida since 2002, and the second to be foreclosed on or threatened with foreclosure.

Célestin's campaign said he was unavailable to discuss his South Florida financial dealings and referred questions to Chihimie.

``Mr. Célestin has had no dealings with the property in question,'' the campaign e-mailed The Miami Herald on Wednesday. ``He does not live in Weston, and is a resident and citizen of Haiti.''

In an e-mail to The Herald, Chihimie said she ``takes full responsibility'' for the Weston house and taxes. She said she obtained the loan through her employer, a bank in Antigua, and cited ``confusion'' over who should pay taxes and insurance on the property -- she or the bank. Monthly loan payments were to be deducted from her fees, she wrote.

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