Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug trafficker and former DEA informant was charged Thursday in federal court in Miami with conspiring to assassinate Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
Jaar, a 49-year-old Haitian-Chilean businessman, was arrested a fortnight ago in the Dominican Republic and extradited to Miami on Wednesday after agreeing o voluntary. Judge Lauren Louis ordered Jaar held without bail due to his criminal record and prior deportation. He is due to appear in court again next Wednesday for a detention hearing.
If convicted of the charges Jaar faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, though he could earn a reduced sentence after a U.S. prosecutor told the court Jaar had voluntarily agreed to his extradition. He also appears to have been cooperating with U.S. law enforcement since at least mid-December.
The evidence in Jaar's case could go a long way toward helping investigators uncover the masterminds of the assassination plot, and the links to the United States. With the stalled investigation in Haiti, many Haitians believe the only hope of solving the crime and punishing those involved lies in the US courts.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that the Haitian investigating judge overseeing the Moïse murder investigation has been removed from the case after missing the legal deadline for filing formal charges, a significant delay in the prosecution of dozens of suspects arrested but not formally charged.
"Jaar was responsible for providing weapons to the Colombians to facilitate the operation," according to the FBI agent Jacqueline Valdes. After storming the house, Moise was shot 12 times in cold blood in front of his wife, Valdes stated. Later that day, Jaar tried to help the Colombians escape by directing them to hide in the embassy of the Taiwanese embassy, she added.
On December 9, 2021, Jaar was interviewed by the FBI and admitted that he provided firearms and ammunition to the Colombians to support the assassination operation, according to court documents. He said that the operation changed from an arrest operation to an assassination operation after the initial plan to "capture" the Haitian President at the national airport and fly him to the United States failed.
According to unidentified witness statements, Valdes claimed that Jaar was also present when a former Haitian judge signed a written request for assistance in furthering the arrest and imprisonment of President Moise, as well as purporting to provide immunity to Haiti for such actions. These documents were subsequently delivered to unidentified persons in the United States a few days before the assassination, according to his affidavit.
The once wealthy businessman said he had no income to pay for a lawyer and had only $2,000 in a bank account in Haiti.
Although he co-owns a food supply company in Haiti, he told the judge that "I was out of business for six months," referring to his time on the run. He also told the judge that he had no car, no house, no stocks and no pension funds.
Jaar was convicted on drug trafficking charges a decade ago and has admitted to smuggling seven tons of cocaine. He worked as a DEA informant for several years until he was arrested in 2012 for stealing some of the cocaine he was supposed to help seize.
In early January, US authorities arrested another fugitive in the case, a retired Colombian army sergeant, Mario Antonio Palacios, who arrived by boat in Jamaica after the murder. A Jamaican judge ordered Palacios, 43, deported to Colombia, but he was arrested during a stopover in Panama and agreed to be flown to the United States.
The Colombian military officer was charged in Miami court on 4 January for his role in the conspiracy. He was also named in the Haitian police report as a member of the squad that entered Moise's room to carry out the assassination. In a clandestine interview with a Colombian radio station, Palacios said he believed the plan was to "detain" Moise and not kill him.
U.S. investigators are also poised to bring to Miami another fugitive suspect in the murder, former Haitian senator John Joel Joseph, who was captured in Jamaica last week.
Joseph is being held on an immigration violation and is scheduled to appear in a Kingston criminal court on Thursday. According to the Jamaica Observer, Joseph offered the police who went to arrest him at 2am on Saturday (January 15) a $2 million bribe to let him escape.
"Police are pursuing other lines of investigation, as Joseph, who has amassed large sums of cash since he has been on the island, is believed to have the support of well-connected individuals who financed the president's assassination," the Observer reported.
Both Jaar and Joseph are accused of being involved in meetings and planning in the weeks leading up to the assassination, according to the Haitian police investigation report.
The report, obtained by Univision Noticias, describes the attack as being launched from Jaar's home near Moise's residence in the hills overlooking the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The report describes Joseph as the person who rented four vehicles used by the Colombians the night they stormed the president's residence. Jaar also confessed to financing the plot with $130,000 in an interview with The New York Times while he was still on the run.
Meanwhile, Haitian authorities have arrested 44 people for the assassination of the president, including 17 former members of the Colombian army who were recruited to come to Haiti. Of these, 39 are still in custody and one died of covid in prison.