U.S. to Charge Suspect in Haiti President’s Murder, Widening Investigation

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U.S. to Charge Suspect in Haiti President’s Murder, Widening Investigation

A major suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti will be charged in federal court in Florida on Thursday, a Justice Department official said, in a sign of an accelerating American investigation into the crime that plunged the Caribbean nation into chaos.

The suspect, Rodolphe Jaar, a Haitian businessman and former drug trafficker, was taken into U.S. custody on Wednesday after being detained in the Dominican Republic following six months on the run. He will be charged with as yet-unspecified crimes at his initial court hearing, said Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The United States is increasingly assuming a leading role in investigating the president’s death, as questions mount over the Haitian authorities’ ability and willingness to get to the bottom of the crime.

Mr. Jaar is the second suspect to be charged by U.S. prosecutors in connection with the assassination of Mr. Moïse, who was gunned down in his bedroom on July 7. Mario Palacios, a retired Colombian commando accused of taking part in the assault on the presidential residence, was charged in the same U.S. District Court in Miami with conspiring to kill Mr. Moïse earlier this month.

After promising to bring the killers to justice, Mr. Moïse’s successor as head of the government, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has made little progress in advancing the investigation. None of the more than 40 suspects detained in Haiti have been formally charged, and local court officials and police officers involved in the investigation have denounced threats and widespread irregularities that have paralyzed the investigation.

In contrast, U.S. law enforcement agencies are beginning to unseal indictments months after their officers traveled to Haiti to assist in the initial evidence gathering following Mr. Moïse’s death. The Haitian police have accused at least six American citizens and residents of participating in the plot, which appears to have been partially conceived and financed in South Florida.

None of the U.S. citizens and residents have been charged yet.

Mr. Palacios, the Colombian ex-soldier, began cooperating with U.S. officials while he was held in detention in Jamaica, where he traveled after Mr. Moïse’s death, according to the unsealed U.S. court documents. His indictment in Miami was swiftly followed by Mr. Jaar’s arrest in the Dominican Republic and the arrest of another suspect, former Senator John Joël Joseph, in Jamaica.

Mr. Jaar’s testimony could help prosecutors move closer to the masterminds of the crime. In an interview with The New York Times before his arrest, Mr. Jaar implicated two senior Haitian officials currently in office in the plot to depose Mr. Moïse.

According to Mr. Jaar, Mr. Henry, the prime minister, was in close contact before and after the crime with Joseph Félix Badio, a former justice ministry official accused by the Haitian police of organizing the attack on the presidential residence. Mr. Jaar also claimed that Mr. Badio had contacted the current head of the police, Frantz Elbé, to ask for his help procuring weapons for the plot.

Mr. Henry, through a spokesperson, denied any connection to Mr. Badio. Mr. Elbé didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Frances Robles contributed reporting in Miami.

Source: New York Times

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