One of the Americans arrested over the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was a DEA informant who handed over the warlord responsible for leading the last coup in the Caribbean nation, it has been revealed.
The DEA has admitted one of their agents was involved in the assassination, denied it orchestrated the plot and disclosed that he called them after the killing and they advised him to hand himself in.
Joseph Vincent, 55, has been named by sources to the Miami Herald as the DEA agent.
Vincent helped the DEA in 2017 to arrest Guy Philippe, who led a 2004 coup against then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide, on drugs trafficking charges, the sources said. Vincent was with Haitian Police when Philippe was handed over to the DEA at an airport. Philippe is now serving nine years in a US federal prison.
Vincent was one of three US citizens arrested last week on suspicion of being behind Wednesday’s early morning deadly raid on the president’s home. The two others are James Solages, 35, a maintenance worker, and Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old doctor and pastor, who is accused of being the mastermind. 18 Colombians are also under arrest.
A number of the arrested suspects are FBI informants, CNN reported.
Footage from the early Wednesday assassination shows an attacker with an American accent shouting in English ‘this is a DEA operation’ as the hit squad arrived at the president’s mansion.
Haitian police also said they uncovered a hat with DEA emblazoned across it in the home of Sanon – along with a stash of weapons.
An associate of Sanon has suggested Washington backed the president’s assassination, saying their friend had claimed the mission was supposed to ‘save Haiti from hell, with support from the US government’.
Both US and Haitian authorities insisted in the hours after the assassination that the DEA was not involved.
James Solages, 35, (left) and Joseph Vincent, 55, (right) are seen Thursday following their arrests. It has emerged Vincent was a DEA informant who handed over the warlord responsible for leading the last coup in the Caribbean nation
Vincent helped the DEA in 2017 to arrest Guy Philippe (pictured in 2004), who led a 2004 coup against then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide, on drugs trafficking charges, the sources said. Vincent was with Haitian Police when Philippe was handed over to the DEA at an airport. Philippe is now serving nine years in a US federal prison.
Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, was the third US citizen arrested in Haiti over the assassination. Haitian police said they uncovered a hat with DEA emblazoned across it in his home – along with a stash of weapons
The latest revelations come as:
- Christian Emanuel Sanon, who is suspected of being the mastermind of the plot, launched a website last month campaigning to replace Moïse as president
- Sanon claimed to have the backing of a key UN figure and wrote a letter to a State Department official saying he had been picked as interim leader
- Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, allegedly flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama in the months before the assassination, it emerged
- He is being probed over whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries in Colombia with authorities planning to interrogate him and the president’s other key security personnel this week
- The US sent State Department, Justice Department, and Homeland officials to Port-au-Prince Sunday
- The Haiti government is planning a state funeral for President Jovenel Moïse
- Haitian officials and residents voiced outrage over photos on social media purportedly of his corpse
A DEA official, speaking under condition of anonymity, confirmed Monday one Haitian-American man arrested in the assassination plot had worked as a US informant.
The suspect was not an active informant with the DEA at the time of the assassination, they said.
‘At times, one of the suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was a confidential source to the DEA,’ the DEA official said in an email, adding that the suspect had reached out to the DEA after the assassination.
The agency and the US State Department urged him to surrender and helped to arrange him being handed over to Haitian authorities, they said.
‘Following the assassination of President Moïse, the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA.
‘A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a US State Department colleague, shared information with the Haitian government that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual.’
The official said the DEA was aware of reports that members of the hit squad had shouted that they were DEA agents during the raid and insisted ‘these individuals were not acting on behalf of DEA.’
It is not clear when Vincent last worked with the DEA or for how long but the source close to the 55-year-old revealed he was first arrested over two decades ago for submitting fake information on a US passport application and went by the alias ‘Oliver.’
The source told the Herald about Vincent’s involvement in helping the US bring warlord Philippe to justice.
Philippe is currently behind bars in US federal prison after he was sentenced in 2017 to nine years for money laundering in connection to an international narcotics scheme that involved smuggling drugs into Miami and other parts of the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He was a close ally of Moïse. At Philippe’s trial in Miami, Haitian opposition protesters waved photos of the two men campaigning together, along with the words ‘Drug-dealing brothers in crime.’
Philippe had been a fugitive from US authorities for more than a decade after federal authorities in Miami charged him with drug trafficking back in 2005.
The former police commander used his position of power in Haiti to earn up to $3.5 million in bribes from drug traffickers who were distributing cocaine in the US.
Philippe was finally arrested on January 5 2017 while he was appearing live on a Haiti radio show. Vincent was on the tarmac with the Haitian National Police officers when they handed Philippe over to DEA agents who took him on a plane back to Miami to face trial in 2017, the source close to the operation said.
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and First Lady Martine are pictured together in 2017. Moïse was riddled with 12 bullet holes and had his eye gouged out during the brutal July 7 attack that claimed his life and left his wife seriously injured
His arrest came at a critical time as Philippe was about to be sworn in as senator on January 9 – four days later. This would have made him immune from prosecution and arrest for the duration of his six-year term. He initially argued he could not be charged by US authorities as an elected leader but this was rejected as he was not yet sworn in.
His arrest also came after a failed attempt to detain the ex-rebel leader 10 years earlier when DEA agents and agents with Haiti drug enforcement executed a dawn raid on his Haitian home.
He evaded capture and went under the protection of his paramilitary troops for years.
Philippe, who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s, was the most high-profile arrest in the US’s crackdown on drug trafficking through Haiti into the US in a years-long sting that swept up a security guard to the president, senior police officers and an ex-senator.
Ex-National Police chief Jean Nesly Lucien was sentenced to five years in 2005 for accepting drug money and ex-presidential security chief Oriel Jean was sentenced to three years after flipping to cooperate with authorities in their prosecution of one of the top drug traffickers.
Jean was assassinated a decade later in Haiti’s capital.
Philippe unsuccessfully ran for Haitian president in 2006 after he led a rebel army in a coup d’état against Aristide in 2004.
The rebels ousted the president before marching to Prime Minister Yvon Neptune’s home to arrest him.
The PM fled before the mob arrived, in fear for his life, while there were reports of executions in the area.
Philippe announced live on national radio: ‘The country is in my hands.’
Three years before the coup, Philippe was also accused of a failed coup in 2001 as well as being the mastermind behind a deadly attack on the Haiti Police Academy.
Vincent’s ties to the DEA have emerged as US law enforcement and intelligence agencies confirmed they are now probing why three US citizens may have taken part in Moïse’s assassination.
The US Justice Department said on Monday that it had been asked by Haiti to assist in the probe of Moïse’s murder, and was doing so.
‘An initial assessment has been conducted in Haiti by senior US officials,’ said spokesman Anthony Coley.
‘The department will also investigate whether there were any violations of US criminal law in connection with this matter.’
Haitians in parts of the capital Port-au-Prince protest in support for former opposition Senators Youri Latortue and Steven Benoit as they made statements before prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude
Supporters of former Haitian opposition Senators Youri Latortue and Steven Benoit gathered around the Palace of Justice on Monday
Protesters built barricades and set them on fire near the Palace of Justice as prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude prepared to hear testimony from former Senators
Haitian soldiers guard the entrance to the Palace of Justice after former opposition senators Youri Latortue and Steven Benoit arrived to give statements on Monday
Tire fires were set outside the Palace of Justice on Monday as a hearing on the assassination of President Jovenel Moise resumed
Vincent and Solages allegedly confessed last week to being involved in the plot but claimed they were hired as translators in a plot to arrest the Haitian president but not to kill him.
They said the Colombian commando unit that had an arrest warrant for the president, but that when they arrived, they found him dead.
Vincent allegedly claimed the plot was orchestrated by a foreigner named ‘Mike’ who spoke English and Spanish, they planned to take Moïse to the National Palace and the plot was devised over the course of a month in a hotel in the Pétion-Ville area of the country.
Deputy justice of the peace Judge Clément Noël told Le Nouvelliste the two men, who both live in Florida, said ‘the mission was to arrest President Jovenel Moïse, within the framework of the execution of a mandate of an investigating judge and not to kill him.’
Solages said he ‘found this job on the internet’, Noël told the outlet.
Authorities are now investigating if the plot was an inside job with the president’s key security personnel facing interrogation.
Jean Laguel Civil, Moïse’s security coordinator and Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace will be interrogated this week. The two men were among those most responsible for the safety and security of the president.
Hérard flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama in the months before the assassination, and Colombian police are investigating whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries, authorities said.
He is currently under investigation by US officials over allegations he is involved in arms trafficking in Haiti, Haitian and US sources told CEPR.
Haitian Prosecutor Me Bed-Ford Claude last week said he had seen no casualties among the president’s security detail following the assassination.
‘They are responsible for the security of the president… I did not see any police victim except the president and his wife. If you are responsible for the security of the president where were you?’
Heavily armed Haitian police have increased patrols on the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise
Protesters set tires alight outside the Palace of Justice on Monday as former Senators Youri Latortue and Steven Benoit testify in front of a judge
Supporters of former Haitian Senator Steven Benoit sit atop his car in Port-au-Prince as he leaves following a hearing at the Palace of Justice
Demonstrators enact a mock execution for the opposition to former Senator Steven Benoit outside the Palace of Justice on Monday
Haitians in parts of the capital Port-au-Prince planned protests this week against the interim prime minister and acting head of state Claude Joseph.
Joseph’s right to lead the country has been challenged by other senior politicians, threatening to exacerbate the turmoil engulfing the poorest country in the Americas.
Many demonstrated in support of former opposition Senators Youri Latortue and Steven Benoit as they made statements before prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude at the Palace of Justice on Monday.
Sanon was arrested on Sunday by Haitian authorities, who accused him of being a mastermind of the attack.
Sanon – a physician, a church pastor, and a failed Florida businessman who filed for bankruptcy – is unknown in Haitian political circles, and associates suggested he was duped by those really behind the assassination of President Moïse.
A Florida friend of Sanon told AP the suspect is an evangelical Christian pastor and also is a licensed physician in Haiti, but not in the U.S.
The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns, said Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the U.S. State and Justice departments who wanted to install him as president.
He said the plan was only for Moïse to be arrested, and Sanon would not have participated if he knew Moïse would be killed.
‘I guarantee you that,’ the associate said. ‘This was supposed to be a mission to save Haiti from hell, with support from the U.S. government.’
Haiti’s National Police chief, Léon Charles, said Moïse’s killers were protecting Sanon.
Charles said officers found a hat with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence, among other things, in Sanon’s house in Haiti.
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, among them Haitian-American citizens James Solages, left, and Joseph Vincent, second left, are shown to the media at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse are shown to the media in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday
Weaponry, mobile phones, passports and other items are being shown to the media along with suspects in the assassination
Meanwhile, Colombia’s national police chief, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, said that a Florida-based enterprise, CTU Security, used its company credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for Colombian suspects.
Most arrived in the Dominican Republic in June and moved into Haiti within weeks, Vargas said.
Charles said that Sanon was in contact with CTU Security and that the company recruited the suspects in the killing.
He said Sanon flew into Haiti in June on a private jet accompanied by several of the alleged gunmen.
The suspects were told their job was to protect Sanon, but they were later ordered to arrest the president, Charles said.
Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one suspect called Sanon, who got in touch with two people believed to be masterminds of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police know who they are.
Sanon’s associate said he attended a recent meeting in Florida with Sanon and about a dozen other people, including Antonio Enmanuel Intriago Valera, a Venezuelan émigré to Miami who runs CTU Security.
He said a presentation was made for rebuilding Haiti, including its water system, converting trash into energy and fixing roads.
Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbor of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property
A car riddled with bullet holes outside the late president’s home in the hills near Port-au-Prince on July 7
He said Sanon asked why the security team accompanying him to Haiti were all Colombians. Sanon was told that Haitians couldn’t be trusted and that the system is corrupt, the associate said. He said Sanon called him from Haiti a few days before the assassination and said the Colombians had disappeared.
‘I’m all by myself. Who are these people? I don’t know what they are doing,’ the associate quoted Sanon as saying.
Sanon ‘is completely gullible,’ the associate added. ‘He thinks God is going to save everything.’
Sanon has lived in Florida, in Broward County and 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.’
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 said: ‘This is a country with resources. 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.’
Solages described himself online as a ‘certified diplomatic agent’ and the former ‘chief commander of bodyguards’ for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti.
Those statements were made on the website of a charity he ran, which on Thursday removed them. Reuters reviewed an archived version that remains accessible.
The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince
The Miami Herald quoted an unnamed government official as saying that a decade ago, Solages briefly worked for a company that provided security for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti.
‘We are aware of allegations implicating an individual who was briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard by a security company hired by Global Affairs Canada in 2010,’ the newspaper quoted the official as saying.
Florida records show Solages has held security officer and firearm licenses. He had no criminal history.
He described Solages as critical of Moïse’s leadership and said he wanted the ‘crazy’ president to resign.
But Dorisme said he did not believe his relative capable of killing. ‘I think somebody used him.’
Solages worked as the plant operations director for the assisted living facility at Carlisle Palm Beach, Lantana, but resigned in April, the Palm Beach Post reported.
He also ran a small economic empowerment charity and a business – EJS Maintenance & Repair LLC -, according to this LinkedIn profile, which has since been changed.
His former boss, Richard Tournesy, the site’s executive director, said: ‘The whole [Carlisle] community is shocked liked everyone else,
‘He was a good employee. He never showed any signs of violence.’
He also said he did not remember Solages ever showing an interest in Haitian politics.
Tournesy said a full background check was conducted before Solages was hired and was not aware of any concerns raised during the process.
‘Our job is to ensure our residents are safe, to protect everybody in the community. I don’t know what happened with this young man and his outside life, but in the community, he was a good, standard employee’, he added.
Few details have emerged about Vincent, but Haitian authorities claim he lives or at some time lived in Miami.
He reportedly told prosecutors a foreigner named ‘Mike’ masterminded the plan.