Florida resident detained as key suspect in Haitian president’s killing

Author: The Associated Press
Published: Updated:
Soldiers stand guard near the residence of Interim President Claude Joseph in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, July 11, 2021, four days after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

The latest suspect detained in the search for the masterminds and assassins in the killing of President Jovenel Moïse is a Haitian man in his 60s living in Florida who claims to be a medical doctor and has accused the leaders of his homeland of corruption.

Police identified the man on Sunday night as Christian Emmanuel Sanon and said Moïse’s alleged killers were protecting him.

The head of Haiti’s police, Léon Charles, accused Sanon of working with those who plotted and participated in Moïse’s killing, which stunned the nation of more than 11 million people. He gave no information on the purported masterminds.

Charles said that among the items found by officers at Sanon’s house in Haiti were a hat with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people.

“We continue to make strides,” Charles said of police efforts to solve the brazen attack early Wednesday at Moïse’s home that killed the president and seriously wounded his wife, Martine, who is hospitalized in Miami.

Charles said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects in the killing. He said Sanon flew into Haiti on a private jet accompanied by several of the alleged gunmen.

The gunmen’s initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new order: to arrest the president, Charles said.

“The operation started from there,” he said, adding that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens.

More than 20 Colombians are suspected in the killing of the president. Eighteen have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Charles said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.

“They are dangerous individuals,” Charles said. “I’m talking commando, specialized commando.”

Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the intellectual authors of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police know who they are.

The police chief said Haitian authorities obtained the information from interrogations and other aspects of the investigation. He added that police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.

At a news conference on Monday, Colombia’s national police chief General Jorge Luis Vargas said that Florida-based CTU security used the company’s credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for the group of retired Colombian soldiers who have been arrested in Haiti. Most arrived in the Dominican Republic in June and moved into Haiti within a few weeks, Vargas said, adding that 23 Colombians are currently under arrest in Haiti.

Colombian officials said they are cooperating with Haiti’s investigation but refused to name any other companies that could be implicated in hiring the former soldiers.

Vargas said that Dimitri Herard, head of general security at Haiti’s National Palace, flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama in the months prior to the assassination. Colombian police are investigating his activities in the country, and whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries. In Haiti prosecutors are seeking to interrogate Herard over the president’s assassination.

Sanon has lived in Broward County in Florida, as well as in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. Records show he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled “Leadership for Haiti.”

However, records show Sanon has never been licensed to practice medicine in Florida or any other occupation covered by the state’s Department of Health.

In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that “they don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people.”

He claims falsely that Haiti has uranium, oil and other resources that have been taken by government officials.

“This is a country with resources,” he says. “Nine million people can’t be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It’s impossible. … The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can’t take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life.”

Sanon has posted little on Twitter but has expressed an interest in Haitian politics. In September 2010, he tweeted, “Just completed a successful conference in Port-Au-Prince. Many people from the opposition attended.” A month later, he wrote: “Back to Haiti for an important meeting regarding the election. Pray for me for protection and wisdom.”

Sanon’s arrest comes as a growing number of politicians challenge interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who is currently in charge of Haiti with help from police and the military.

Joseph said Moïse’s wife underwent surgery Saturday but is doing well, adding that the investigation into the killing remains a priority for the government.

“I congratulate the population for staying calm,” he said Sunday night. “The plan was probably to kill the president and for the population to take to the streets and start looting.”

While the streets were calm Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested U.S. and U.N. military assistance.

“We still believe there is a path for chaos to happen,” Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.

U.S. officials who recently arrived in Haiti, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, met on Sunday with Joseph, designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate whom supporters have named as provisional president in a challenge to Joseph.

The meeting was meant “to encourage open and constructive dialogue to reach a political accord that can enable the country to hold free and fair elections,” according to a statement from the White House National Security Council.

The delegation also met with Haiti’s National Police and reviewed the security of critical infrastructure, it said.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon is analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made.

The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990, but the last U.N. military peacekeepers left the country in 2017.

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