Haitian authorities investigating the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse said five armed and dangerous fugitives include a fired government official, an informant for the US government, and a former local senator who once compared the leader to the coronavirus.
Former Sen. John Joel Joseph, an opponent of Moïse’s Tet Kale party, made the comparison in a video posted last year on YouTube.
“Insecurity has infected every single Haitian,” said Joseph, who claimed Haitians had died of hunger or been killed amid a spike in violence under Moïse’s administration.
The second suspect has been identified as Joseph Felix Badio, who previously worked for Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and joined the government’s anti-corruption unit in March 2013.
The agency issued a statement saying Badio was fired in May amid “serious breaches” of unspecified ethical rules, adding that it filed a complaint against him.
“This villainous act is an affront to our democracy,” the anti-corruption unit said in a statement Tuesday. “The authors, co-authors, accomplices must be hunted down, investigated and punished with the utmost rigor.”
The third suspect, identified as Rodolphe Jaar, was born in Haiti, speaks English and has a college degree in business administration, according to court records.
Jaar, who uses the alias Whiskey, was indicted in federal court in South Florida in 2013 on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela through Haiti to the US.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly four years behind bars, according to court records.
At Jaar’s 2015 sentencing hearing, his attorney told the court that the man had been a confidential source for the US government for several years. He also agreed to cooperate with the feds and asked for a lighter sentence, saying he had a wife, 1-year-old child and elderly parents.
In 2000, Jaar filed a civil lawsuit against the US government seeking the return of a “large amount” of cash taken from him along with his passport and tourist visa when he was stopped in a rental car by customs agents.
He was not arrested at the time, but Jaar said he found out he was under investigation for money-laundering. The government ultimately returned his property and did not file charges.
Jaar, who dropped the lawsuit, described himself in court papers as the owner of a successful import business in Haiti that his family had operated since 1944.
Authorities are investigating the Moïse killing with help from Colombia’s government, which has said that 23 of 26 former Colombian soldiers suspected in the slaying have been detained in Haiti.
Leon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, said three Haitians – James Solages, Joseph Vincent and Christian Emmanuel Sanon — also have been arrested and at least three suspects killed.
Investigators said Sanon, 62, a Haitian physician, church pastor and Florida businessman, flew to Haiti in June aboard a private jet with several of the alleged gunmen.
He once reportedly expressed a desire to lead Haiti in a YouTube video and has denounced the country’s leaders as corrupt.
Charles said that Sanon was working with those who plotted the assassination and that Moïse’s killers were protecting him.
The police chief said officers who raided Sanon’s house in Haiti found a hat with a DEA logo, 20 boxes of ammunition, gun parts, four license plates from the Dominican Republic, two vehicles and correspondence.
A business associate and a pastor in Florida who knew Sanon told The Associated Press that Sanon was religious and that they did not believe he would be involved in violence.
The associate said on condition of anonymity that he believes Sanon was duped, describing him as “completely gullible.”
Meanwhile, an ex-soldier recruited to join the alleged Colombian gunmen added his voice to a chorus of family and colleagues who claim they were contracted to provide security, not to kill.
Matias Gutierrez, a retired special forces sniper and father of four, would have traveled to Haiti with the group if he had not tested positive for COVID-19, according to Reuters.
“If I had traveled, I would possibly be involved in the same thing that the commandos there are, unfortunately,” Gutierrez told the news agency.
Gutierrez, who is now a security guard, said he knows the men were not involved in the assassination because they are honorable and also well-trained in how to attack a target and then pull back if that had been their actual mission.
“It wasn’t our commandos. There has to have been a conspiracy,” Gutierrez said. “Their extraction was total chaos. Why? Because they weren’t going on an assault, they went in support of a request by the security forces of the president.”
Gutierrez, who showed Reuters the WhatsApp chat where he claims discussions about the job took place, told the news outlet that the men were to earn $2,700 a month to help protect the president and were assured they would work in tandem with Haitian authorities.
He said he chatted to some of the men when they first arrived in Haiti. They told him things were going well and that they were staying in a house close to the presidential palace, according to Reuters.
With Post wires