The Canadian government has announced sanctions against two former Haitian justice ministers over allegations of corruption and involvement with criminal organisations.
On Tuesday, Canada said that it would seize any assets held by Berto Dorce and Liszt Quitel, accusing the former ministers of laundering money for criminal gangs that have risen in power in Haiti since the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise last year.
“Canada has reason to believe these individuals are using their status as high-profile elites in Haiti to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs,” Canadian foreign minister Melanie Joly said in a statement on Tuesday.
Violence has gripped the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since Moïse’s assassination, with Ulrika Richardson, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, estimating that 60 percent of the city is currently controlled by armed gangs.
Speaking earlier this month, Richardson said that 155,000 residents in Port-au-Prince have fled their homes to escape the violence. Approximately 20,000 Haitians face starvation, the majority living in gang-controlled areas of the capital.
From September to November, one Haitian gang, led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, blockaded a major Port-au-Prince fuel terminal, leading to hospital closures, food insecurity and more.
Both Quitel and Dorce, the individuals sanctioned on Tuesday, are linked to gang activity, according to Canadian officials.
Quitel had been justice minister when a gang known as 400 Mawozo kidnapped a Canadian and 16 American missionaries last year. After two months of captivity, they managed to escape.
Dorce replaced Quitel at the time of the abductions, promising to deal with a spate of kidnappings by armed gangs. Last month, the US announced charges against seven Haitian gang leaders for their alleged role in the kidnappings.
Both Dorce and Quitel were expelled from the government by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in November. Tuesday’s sanctions seize any assets Quitel and Dorce have in Canada, ban them from entering Canada and generally prohibit Canadians from dealing with them.
The sanctions are the latest in a series of international efforts to curtail the power of Haiti’s gangs. As Haiti struggles with numerous crises, including a cholera outbreak and surging costs of living, former and current Haitian officials have come under growing scrutiny for using their positions of power to facilitate criminal activity.
In November, for example, the United States and Canada announced sanctions against Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue, two powerful Haitian politicians who had each served as president of Haiti’s Senate.
The two countries accused Lambert and Latortue of laundering money and using their positions to protect organisations engaged in drug trafficking.
And on December 5, Canada also imposed sanctions on Haiti’s only billionaire, Gilbert Bigio, as well as two businessmen, Reynold Deeb and Sherif Abdallah.
This came after, last month, Canada also placed sanctions against former Haitian President Michel Martelly and two ex-prime ministers accused of profiting from armed gangs.