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Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti carry the casket of slain President Jovenel Moïse before his funeral on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Moïse, 53, was shot dead in his home in the early hours of July 7.

Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti carry the casket of slain President Jovenel Moïse before his funeral on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Moïse, 53, was shot dead in his home in the early hours of July 7. (Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — A former Haitian politician described by police as driven by his “fierce will to kill” President Jovenel Moïse has been apprehended.

John Joël Joseph, a former Haitian senator and one of several assassination suspects who remained at large, is being detained in Jamaica.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force Saturday confirmed the arrest to the Miami Herald, but details on where it was made and when remained unclear. Joseph’s entry into Jamaica was itself a possible immigration violation.

This is the second weekend in a row that a wanted suspect in the brazen assassination of Moïse has been apprehended. Last weekend, officials in the Dominican Republic arrested Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug-trafficker whose Haitian home housed vehicles, weapons and a group of Colombians allegedly tied to the plot in advance of the attack.

A former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant who once double-crossed the agency by tipping off agents to a 420-kilo cocaine load in 2012 while secretly stealing part of the stash, Jaar remains in the Dominican Republic but is wanted by both Haiti and the United States, which are conducting parallel probes into the killing.

Joseph, meanwhile, is the second key suspect to be taken into custody in Jamaica, suggesting that he and others may have used a popular “Guns for Ganja” criminal route between Haiti’s southern coast and its English-speaking Caribbean neighbor to escape authorities after months of hiding in Haiti.

In October, ex-Colombian soldier Mario Palacios Palacios was arrested in Kingston after being tracked there by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents. He was later taken into custody by Jamaican authorities under an immigration violation, and then ordered deported in late December. Palacios is currently in U.S. federal custody, after being detained in Panama earlier this month while on his way back to Colombia.

A criminal complaint drafted by the FBI and unsealed in federal court accuses Palacios, 43, of conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States, and providing material support resulting in death, knowing that such support would be used to carry out a plot to kill the Haitian president.

Moïse was at home with his wife and young children when a hit-squad allegedly made up of former Colombian soldiers and accompanied by two Haitian Americans and Haitian National Police officers stormed his Pelerin 5 neighborhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2021. Heavily armed, they gained access inside the private residence and then into the couple’s bedroom, where Moïse was shot 12 times and his wife, Martine, was wounded and left for dead.

Authorities in Haiti arrested 44 individuals, including 18 Colombians commandos, three Haitian Americans as well as a prominent businessman and several police officers. A major manhunt was launched for other alleged key suspects — four of whom have been apprehended outside of Haiti since November.

A 124-page Haitian police investigative report obtained by the Herald shows that Joseph was heavily involved in the planning leading up to the president’s slaying. He “was instrumental in his fierce will to kill the president,” the report says.

Among police allegations is that he was in contact at least 10 times with another suspect, Cinéus Francis Alexis, whose cell phone was transmitting from Pétionville at 2:04 a.m. on the night of the attack and later in the vicinity of the National Palace.

Police allege that Joseph was in contact with a number of the other suspects as well, and attended meetings about the attack against the president. They contend that one of the jailed Colombian suspects, Jheyner Alberto Carmona Florez, who admitted to taking part in the attack, said during questioning that one such meeting took place at Joseph’s home, where they were briefed on the operation.

Also in attendance were former Colombian military soldier Rivera Garcia, who goes by Capt. Mike; former government functionary Joseph Felix Badio, and Joseph Vincent, one of two Haitian Americans currently jailed in the plot.

Joseph also was charged with paying for the rental vehicles that were to be used in the assassination. Joseph, who also goes by Joseph Joel John, had been in hiding in Haiti and was believed to have been under the protection of a local gang prior to surfacing in Jamaica.

He is among several suspects for whom Haitian police had issued arrest warrants. Another, who remains at large, is Badio, who had worked in the government’s anti-corruption unit and also as a consultant in the justice ministry.

©2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Visit mcclatchydc.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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