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Crime and Justice

Former Haitian senator arrested, alleged to be key suspect in assassination of president Moise

Former Haitian senator John Joël Joseph was arrested in Jamaica and faces charges in Haiti linking him to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July.
Publicado 15 Ene 2022 – 01:23 PM EST | Actualizado 16 Ene 2022 – 02:19 PM EST
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The Haitian arrest warrant for former senator John Joel Joseph Crédito: Haitian National Police

Former Senator John Joel Joseph was arrested Friday in Jamaica after eluding capture for more than six months, according to Jamaican police and Haiti's former foreign minister, Claude Joseph.

Joseph is one of the main suspects in the assassination last year of Haiti's president Jovenel Moise, according to a detailed Haitian National Police report obtained by Univision. The report identified Joseph as having rented four vehicles used by the Colombian hit squad that attacked Moise’s residence and killed him on the night of July 7. Police also found several guns in a search of his house.

Haiti's former foreign minister, Claude Joseph, who is not related to the senator, said the arrest had been confirmed to him by Jamaica's foreign minister. Police in Jamaica said Joseph was arrested with three relatives Friday by a Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime unit on immigration related charges at a home in St Elizabeth, about 80 miles west of the capital, Kingston.

"Local investigators have since made contact with the Haitian authorities who informed them that he is wanted in Haiti as a suspected in the alleged assassination of the Haitian President in 2021," a police statement said.

Joseph was one of several fugitives in the assassination investigation to be captured this month. Rodolphe Jaar, a former drug trafficker and DEA informant, was arrested in the Dominican Republic last week. Mario Palacios, a retired Colombian soldier was also charged on January 4 in Miami federal court for his alleged role in the conspiracy to assassinate Moise.

Palacios was also arrested in Jamaica in October. Instead of being sent to Haiti, he was deported to Colombia. But U.S. agents intercepted him in Panama and he voluntarily agreed to fly to Miami where he was arrested and is now believed to be cooperating in the investigation.

The Miami connection

Palacios and the other Colombian commandos had been recruited to provide security in Haiti by a security firm near Miami, CTU Federal Academy. Lawyers for CTU’s president, Antonio Intriago, deny the company had any knowledge about the assassination plot and contend the company was duped.

On the night of the assassination, members of the Colombian security team left Jaar's house using vehicles supplied by Joseph and drove to Moise’s residence where they carried out the assassination, according to the Haitian police report.

Jaar was arrested in the Dominican Republic last week. He is wanted in Haiti, but could end up being deported to the United States as the Dominican Republic does not have an extradition agreement with its neighbor. Another fugitive and chief suspect in the assassination, Joseph Felix Badio, a former Haitian Ministry of Justice official in an anti-corruption unit, remains on the run.

'Triple J'

Known as ' JJJ' or ' triple J', Joseph was a strong opponent of Moïse's ruling Tet Kale ('Bald Heads') party.

Several witnesses have told Univision that Joseph played a major role in numerous meetings leading up to the murder. "When he got involved is when things started to heat up, the tone of the meetings became more aggressive," said one witness.

A month before the assassination, Joseph, Jaar and Badio allegedly attended a bizarre meeting in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, at which a plan was discussed, with the alleged backing of the US government, to arrest 34 Haitian businessmen and government officials involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, using FBI and DEA agents.

The State Department denies that there was any such plan. "There is absolutely no truth to the allegations that the State Department, the FBI, the DEA or any other U.S. Government entity was involved in this plot," a State Department spokesman told Univision.