A Miami-based security contractor suspected of training a group of mercenaries in the assassination plot of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse claimed he was working with a former local judge to help arrest the leader — and not kill him.
Antonio Intriago, a Venezuelan who owns CTU Security in Doral, said the mercenaries went to Moïse’s home to accompany police executing an arrest warrant for the president, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a statement by the businessman’s lawyers.
The three attorneys said the president was already dead when the Colombians arrived, according to the news outlet.
“It is our belief that the president’s own bodyguards betrayed him,” the lawyers wrote without elaborating in the statement, which included an arrest warrant for Moïse, private correspondence, contracts and a “Memorandum of Understanding” to replace him with an obscure preacher, the Journal said.
Officials have said at least 26 suspects have been detained as part of the probe, including 18 former Colombian soldiers and three Haitian police officers. Two Americans of Haitian descent also allegedly took part in the assassination.
At least seven high-ranking police officials have been placed in isolation, but not formally arrested, Haitian police have said.
Intriago’s lawyers said the initial mission for the gunmen was to provide security for solar-power stations and other projects in the town of Jacmel, according to the report.
Their statement said Intriago was approached by Dr. Christian Sanon, a physician and little known preacher who had informed Intriago that he planned to lead a provisional government.
The lawyers didn’t say how the provisional government was supposed to be formed.
Sanon, who has lived in Haiti and South Florida for 25 years and is currently under arrest in the Caribbean country, wasn’t available for comment, the Journal said.
Intriago believed the Colombians were unarmed and still awaiting for gun permits from Haitian authorities when there was a change of plans for the mission to now accompany police in arresting Moïse, according to the statement cited by the paper.
The team was “being requested to accompany a judge who would go along with Haitian police while the warrant was served upon President Moïse,” the statement said.
A copy of the warrant, signed by Judge Jean Roger Noelcius for the crime of murder, was provided to Intriago at his request, it said. No additional information was provided about the alleged crime.
The Journal said it could not reach Noelcius for comment.
The statement also said that Windelle Coq-Thelot, a former Supreme Court judge and magistrate, wanted Intriago’s help in executing the arrest warrant.
The judge was fired earlier in the year along with two other justices after the president claimed he had foiled a coup attempt, but she had presented herself in her letter as an active judge and argued that Moïse had overstayed his five-year term.
“I hereby expressly request that your company, that its members assist our Constitutional authorities, especially myself and in general the Haitian people in order to protect democracy,” she wrote in the letter to Intriago.
“I ratify, in my capacity as a Magistrate, in my capacity as a lifetime official and that I represent the people, and protected by the actions of a Judge and a Prosecutor, by the merit given to us by the Constitution, the Law and Reason that we give and will give immunity, protection and security to their actions in our favor,” she added.
Last month, an arrest warrant was issued for Coq-Thelot, who said Sunday in an unverified Twitter account purporting to belong to her: “I firmly denounce the political persecutions of which I am subjected to at the moment.”
Intriago’s lawyers said the US government knew about his business plan, the Journal reported.
After Sanon approached him with a proposal to provide security for the solar project, Intriago had a business associate “call individuals at the US government to get assurances that the business dealings were legitimate,” the attorneys wrote.
“Whenever Mr. Intriago questioned the legality of providing security services for Dr. Sanon or anyone else in Haiti, [the business associate] called his FBI contacts and Mr. Intriago became confident that the United States government knew exactly what was taking place in Haiti,” they reportedly wrote.
The FBI didn’t immediately respond to the paper’s request for comment.
A State Department spokeswoman has previously said that reports that former soldiers were acting on behalf of the US were false.