Man pleads guilty in US probe of Haiti president assassination

Rodolphe Jaar faces charges of conspiring to murder or kidnap President Jovenal Moise and providing support to the plot.

Eleven people have been charged in a US investigation into the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise [File: Odelyn Joseph/AP]

A dual Haitian and Chilean citizen has pleaded guilty to three charges related to a plot to assassinate former Haitian President Jovenel Moise, marking the first guilty plea in a United States investigation into the 2021 killing.

Rodolphe Jaar, 50, appeared in court on Friday to face criminal charges in Moise’s shooting, including conspiracy to commit murder or kidnap and conspiracy to provide material support to carry out the assassination plot. Moise was killed in his home in July 2021.

Jaar is the first of 11 defendants in the US case to have pleaded guilty. While each of the charges carries a potential life sentence, under a plea agreement Jaar could potentially spend less than 30 years in jail because he has cooperated with federal authorities, according to the Miami Herald.

His sentencing is scheduled for June 3.

When Jaar was arrested in January 2022, US Justice Department prosecutors claimed he had collaborated in “a plot to kidnap or kill the Haitian President” along with a group that included “approximately 20 Colombian citizens and a number of dual Haitian-American citizens”.

That plot initially aimed to have Moise arrested at the airport in Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital, but evolved into a scheme to kidnap or assassinate the president.

Prosecutors said Jaar was “responsible for providing weapons to the Colombian co-conspirators to facilitate carrying out the operation”.

The “Colombian co-conspirators also stayed at a residence controlled by Jaar” and he provided aid to those involved as they hid from Haitian authorities in the wake of the killing, prosecutors explained.

The Miami Herald reported that Jaar had previously cooperated with US investigators during a major probe into cocaine smuggling 10 years ago.

Moise’s killing cast Haiti into further political turmoil, which emboldened local gangs who have since expanded their control to large swathes of the island. The increased violence has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis caused by natural disasters and high rates of poverty.

The US has continued to make arrests in the plot to kill Moise, as part of its ongoing investigation.

The most recent round took place in February, when authorities detained and charged three people in Florida with “conspiracy to kidnap or kill outside the United States, resulting in death”. They were identified as Antonio “Tony” Intriago, Arcangel Pretel Ortiz and Walter Veintemilla.

A fourth suspect, Frederick Bergmann, was arrested and accused of conspiring to smuggle ballistic vests for the former Colombian soldiers who allegedly carried out the fatal shooting.

A key figure among those arrested is a 64-year-old doctor named Christian Emmanuel Sanon. Prosecutors describe him as “a dual Haitian-American citizen who held political aspirations in Haiti”.

They allege the plotters initially planned to replace Moise with Sanon but ultimately changed their mind, shifting their support to a former Haitian Supreme Court judge. The plotters had “apparently realised that Sanon had neither the constitutional qualifications nor the popular support of the Haitian people to become President”, federal prosecutors explained.

Sanon was charged with attempting to smuggle ballistic vests from the US to Haiti and faces a 20-year sentence.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies