Four key suspects in the killing of the Haitian president Jovenel Moïse were transferred to the US for prosecution, according to officials, as the case stagnates in Haiti amid death threats against local judges.
The suspects in custody include James Solages, 37, and Joseph Vincent, 57, two Haitian-Americans who were among the first arrested after Moïse was shot 12 times at his private home near the capital of Port-au-Prince on 7 July 2021.
Also charged is Christian Emmanuel Sanon, an elderly pastor, doctor and businessman whom authorities have identified as a key player. His associates have suggested he was duped by the real – and still unidentified – masterminds behind the assassination that plunged Haiti deep into political chaos and unleashed a level of gang violence not seen in decades.
The fourth suspect was identified as Colombian citizen Germán Rivera García, 44, who is among nearly two dozen former Colombian soldiers charged in the case.
Rivera, along with Solages and Vincent, face charges including conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping outside the US and providing material support and resources resulting in death, the US justice department said.
Sanon is charged with conspiring to smuggle goods from the US and providing unlawful export information. Court documents show that he allegedly shipped 20 ballistic vests to Haiti, but that the items shipped were described as “medical X-ray vests and school supplies”.
It was not immediately known if the four suspects had attorneys who could comment on the development. The men are scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday in Miami.
A total of seven suspects in the case are in US custody. Dozens of others, however, are still in Haiti’s main prison, which is reportedly severely overcrowded and often lacks food and water for inmates.
The case as reached a virtual standstill in Haiti, with local officials last year nominating a fifth judge to investigate the killing after four others were dismissed or resigned for personal reasons.
One judge told the Associated Press that his family asked him not to take the case because they feared for his life. Another judge stepped down after one of his assistants died under murky circumstances.
Haiti police say other high-profile suspects remain at large, including a former supreme court judge who authorities say was favoured to seize power from Moïse. Another fugitive is Joseph Badio, alleged leader of the plot who previously worked for Haiti’s justice ministry and the government’s anti-corruption unit until he was fired, police say.
Emmanuel Jeanty, an attorney for the president’s widow, Martine Moïse, who was injured in the attack and flown to the US for care, did not return a message for comment.
In December, Martine Moïse tweeted that her husband – who also has been accused of corruption, which he denied – had fought against it, which resulted in his assassination.
“Despite the blockages, 17 months later, the people are demanding #Justice,” she wrote.
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