Haiti police chief links Venezuelan to assassination plot

National News

A youth looks into the camera inside a school turned shelter created about a month ago for families displaced by gang violence in Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s police chief on Wednesday accused a Venezuelan businessman who owns a security company in Florida of traveling to Haiti numerous times as part of a plot to assassinate President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed last week.

Léon Charles, head of the Haiti’s National Police, said Antonio Intriago of CTU Security signed a contract while in Haiti but provided no other details and offered no evidence.

“The investigation is very advanced,” Charles said.

Intriago could not be immediately reached for comment.

Colombia’s national police chief has said that CTU Security used its company credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for the Colombian suspects allegedly involved in the killing.

During a news conference Wednesday evening, Charles pleaded with Haitians to help officials track down suspects who remain on the run, including a former senator he described as a key suspect and is accused of providing weapons used in the July 7 attack.

Former Sen. John Joël Joseph, a Haitian politician and opponent of the Tet Kale party that Moïse belonged to, is one of five fugitives whom police say are armed and dangerous.

“We are looking for these assassins, and wherever they go we need to capture them, arrest them and bring them to justice,” Charles said.

In a video posted last year on YouTube, the former senator compared Moïse to the coronavirus, saying Haitians have died from hunger or been killed amid a spike in violence under his administration.

“Insecurity has infected every single Haitian,” Joseph said.

The police chief also announced the arrest of Gilbert Dragon, who led a rebel group known as the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation and Reconstruction of Haiti. The group seized power in parts of Haiti after the 2004 coup that led to the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Authorities said they found several weapons at his house, including a saber, two grenades and an AR-15.

In addition, officers arrested a Haitian man identified as Reynaldo Corvington, who is accused of providing the suspects with housing and giving them sirens to use on top of their cars with help from another suspect, James Solages, a Haitian American who was detained in recent days.

Corvington owns a private security company called Corvington Courier & Security Service, which he established in 1982, according to its website, which provides tips on how to survive a kidnapping.

Police said they found several weapons at his house, including nine pistols and an AR-15.

Another of the fugitives identified by police is Joseph Felix Badio. Charles said Badio rented a house near Moise’s home to help the suspects understand the layout of the area.

Badio 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 he was fired in May following “serious breaches” of unspecified ethical rules, adding that it filed a complaint against him.

“This villainous act is an affront to our democracy,” the unit said in a statement.

Charles, the police chief, said four high-ranking officials who were in charge of the president’s security detail are being held in isolation as authorities continue to track down other fugitives, including Rodolphe Jaar. He was born in Haiti, speaks English and has a college degree in business administration, according to court records. He is not a U.S. citizen.

Jaar, who once used the alias “Whiskey,” was indicted in 2013 in federal court in South Florida on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela through Haiti to the U.S. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison, according to court records.

At his 2015 sentencing hearing, Jaar’s attorney told the court that Jaar had been a confidential source for the U.S. government for several years before his indictment. He also agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and asked for a lighter sentence, saying he had a wife, 1-year-old and elderly parents.

In June 2000, Jaar filed a civil suit against the U.S. 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 learned he was under investigation for money laundering.

The government later 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. He said his family has operated the enterprise since 1944.

Authorities in Haiti are investigating Moïse’s killing with help from Colombia’s government, which has said at least 18 former Colombian soldiers suspected in the slaying have been arrested and remain detained in Haiti. Charles said three Haitians also have been arrested and at least three suspects killed, adding that they continue to investigate those detained to identify the masterminds behind the slaying.

The detained Haitians have been identified as Solages, Joseph Vincent and Christian Emmanuel Sanon.

Police had said Sanon flew to Haiti in June aboard a private jet with several of the alleged gunmen. The 62-year-old is a Haitian physician, church pastor and Florida businessman who once 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. He said officers who raided Sanon’s house in Haiti found a hat with a DEA logo, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence.

A business associate and a pastor in Florida who knew Sanon told The Associated Press that the suspect was religious and that they did not believe he would be involved in violence. The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said he believes Sanon was duped, describing him as “completely gullible.”

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Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Washington and Terry Spencer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida contributed to this report.

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