Key suspect in assassination of Haitian president arrested | ET REALITY

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A former Haitian Justice Ministry official who has been the main suspect in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse for more than two years was arrested on Thursday outside the capital, police said.

The suspect, Joseph Félix Badio, 60, was captured in broad daylight while driving a van out of a supermarket parking lot in Pétion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Badio, dressed in a dark suit, appeared defiant as several screaming police officers surrounded him and pointed rifles at him.

Badio emerged as a key suspect about a week after the murder, in which a team of Colombian commandos hired by a Miami-area security company broke into Moise’s home in Pétion-Ville, shot him dead and wounded the other. first lady, Martine Moïse. .

The gunmen, arrested hours after the murder, told authorities that Badio had given them orders. He initially told them they would “arrest” the president, they said, but he changed the plan to assassinate a few days before the operation, the Colombian police chief said a few days after the assassination.

In Haiti, an arrest warrant for murder, attempted murder and robbery was issued for Badio, who had been fired from his position as an anti-corruption official in the Ministry of Justice a few months before the murder. But he eluded capture, even as dozens of people in Haiti and nearly a dozen in the United States were arrested in connection with the murder.

“Badio is so central to the murder case, not because he was likely the ultimate mastermind, but because he appears to be one of the few individuals who actually could have known what was really going on and who else was involved. ”said Jake Johnston, a Haiti expert at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

The evidence indicates that Badio was involved in almost every aspect of the conspiracy, Johnston said. “He could well be the key link connecting the ongoing US case, which until now has focused narrowly on those with ties to Florida, to powerful actors in Haiti who have until now remained hidden,” he added.

The Justice Department in Washington has accused several South Florida businessmen of orchestrating the assassination so they could install a puppet as president and secure lucrative contracts with the Haitian government.

No charges have been announced in the United States against Mr. Badio, a homeowner in Rockland County, New York.

Phone records seen by The New York Times show calls between Badio and Ariel Henry, now Haiti’s prime minister, before and after Moise’s assassination, each lasting several minutes.

Badio worked with Henry at the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice. He was fired in May 2021 from an anti-corruption unit for soliciting a $30,000 bribe in exchange for his promise to release from jail a man who had been accused of participating in the murder of a radio journalist.

Badio is not named in the indictment of 11 people accused in US federal court in Miami of participating in the conspiracy to kill the president, but several of the defendants said he gave the order. His name also appears in a Haitian police investigation report into the murder, which says he even rented a house on the president’s street to spy on him.

WhatsApp messages seen by The Times indicate that Badio was in contact with some of the alleged plotters on the night of the murder. He was also present at the assembly house where Colombians gathered to receive weapons before traveling in a convoy to the president’s residence, according to the Haitian police report, which referred to Badio as a “mastermind” and a “director.” orchestral”.

The report, largely a compilation of statements from several suspects, also said that Badio had paid the president’s guards $80,000 to disappear the night of the assassination.

John Joël Joseph, former Haitian senator; Rodolphe Jaar, former DEA informant; and Germán Rivera, a retired Colombian army captain, have already pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to charges related to the murder. The remaining defendants are expected to stand trial in the spring.

Lawyers in Miami for some of the defendants said they suspected that U.S. prosecutors may have filed a sealed indictment against Badio, and that he could be flown to the United States in the coming days or weeks.

Nearly two and a half years after Moïse’s assassination, Haiti has yet to hold a presidential election to select his replacement. The nation has been plunged into chaos as gangs associated with political power brokers have gained control of more of the capital. Murders and kidnappings have skyrocketed.

The United Nations Security Council recently authorized a Kenyan-led multinational security mission to help bring order to Haiti, but a Kenyan court suspended the plan. This week, the UN released a 156-page report documenting how gangs had taken over schools and clinics and lived in luxury in Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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