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HomeInsightsOn Haitian president assassination prosecution

On Haitian president assassination prosecution

By Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen

Tuesday, February 14, 2023, four individuals were arrested here in Florida based on federal charges for their alleged roles in a plot to assassinate the former Haitian president.

In the early morning hours of July 7, 2021, president Jovenel Moïse was shot and killed in his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His wife, the First Lady, was also shot multiple times, and fortunately survived.

This was both a human tragedy and an assault on core democratic principles. The impact on Haiti and its people continues to be felt to this day.

Among the charges and arrests being announced today are those arising under US laws that prohibit conspiracies to kill or kidnap persons abroad, and providing material support to such efforts.

This assassination was carried out in Port-au-Prince. But, as alleged in the complaint, aspects of the deadly plot were advanced inside the United States by conspirators and facilitators located here. That includes the four individuals arrested in Florida earlier this morning. In total, eleven defendants have been charged and are now in US custody.

Among those arrested as part of this wide-ranging law enforcement investigation are US, Haitian and Colombian nationals, as well as dual US-Haitian citizens. Their actions violated US law, and now they face US justice.

Let me be clear: The United States will not tolerate those who would plot from our soil to carry out acts of violence abroad, just as we will not tolerate those outside the US who would plot to conduct violence in this country.

This commitment is an obligation of responsible members of the international community. It goes to the core of defending democracy and upholding the rule of law.

To those who would use violence to upend democratic processes – whether motivated by greed, ideology or political ambition – today’s charges should send a clear message that the United States will use the full measure of our laws to hold you accountable, wherever you may be.

In addition to the nine defendants charged with conspiring to kill and kidnap overseas, two defendants are charged with violations of US export control laws for allegedly transferring bullet-proof vests – that they falsely claimed were medical supplies – from the United States to Haiti to be used by the assault force that ultimately killed president Moise.

The National Security Division, which is responsible for enforcing these statutes, has worked on this investigation together with prosecutors in the US attorney’s office here in Miami and our federal law enforcement partners.

The allegations in today’s court filings provide the details of this violent and brazen plot.

According to the complaint, three of the defendants arrested today operated businesses here in South Florida and hoped to reap windfall profits from security and construction contracts to be granted by those who they believed would assume power in Haiti following president Moise’s demise.

Using coded terms like “screws,” “nails” and “tools” to refer to weapons and ammunition, communications between co-conspirators reveal a calculated plan that was intended to encourage civil unrest as cover for the assassins’ entry into the president’s residence to carry out a “hit” that resulted in his death.

A central tenet of every democracy in the world is that those who want to change their government must do so peacefully – through ballots, not bullets. These defendants thought they could secure Haitian immunity for their crimes. We will now deliver justice in a US courtroom.

I’d like to thank US attorney Lapointe and his office and congratulate him as he begins his service to the people of the Southern District of Florida.

I would like to recognize and thank the dedicated agents of the FBI and HSI, and the prosecutors here in the Southern District of Florida and in the National Security Division who are responsible for this investigation and prosecution.

 

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