US court sentences Haitian businessman to life in Moise’s killing

Rodolphe Jaar is one of 11 people arrested and charged in US for alleged involvement in Haitian president’s killing.

A picture of Haitian President Jovenel Moise is displayed at a US news conference
Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was killed on July 7, 2021 when a group of armed men stormed his home in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince [File: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

A court in the United States has sentenced a Haitian-Chilean businessman to life in prison for his role in the plot to assassinate Haitian President Jovenel Moise in 2021.

A US federal judge in Miami sentenced Rodolphe Jaar on Friday, more than two months after the 50-year-old dual national pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside of the US, as well as to providing material support resulting in death.

In March, prosecutors had said that Jaar was “responsible for providing weapons to … co-conspirators to facilitate carrying out the operation” that resulted in Moise’s assassination.

The president was killed on July 7, 2021, when a group of armed men stormed his home in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, sending shockwaves across the Caribbean nation and around the world.

Jaar is one of 11 people to be arrested and charged in the US for their alleged role in the killing, which further destabilised Haitian politics and fuelled an continuing wave of violence in the country.

US prosecutors had stated that Jaar provided weapons and lodging to a group of Colombian mercenaries involved in the scheme.

Jaar is the only person to plead guilty, and the other 10 suspects charged in the US are currently scheduled to begin a jury trial in July.

The Miami Herald had previously reported that Jaar, a former informant for the US government who had cooperated during an investigation into cocaine smuggling 10 years ago, could receive a more lenient sentence of less than 30 years due to his previous cooperation with federal officials.

On Friday, however, Judge Jose E Martinez opted for the maximum sentence of life in prison.

Charging documents state that the plotters had initially planned to kidnap Moise, but changed their plans and decided to kill him instead.

They had hoped to win profitable contracts from a new Haitian government after the assassination, US authorities have alleged.

Haitian authorities also have arrested more than 40 people, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, for their alleged involvement in Moise’s killing. But the process in Haiti has been beset by setbacks and is slow-moving.

Separately on Friday, the US State Department imposed sanctions on former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, accusing him of misappropriating at least $60m in public funds for “private gain”.

“Through this corrupt act and his direct involvement in the management of the fund, he exploited his role as a public official and contributed to the current instability in Haiti,” the department said in a statement.

The sanctions make Lamothe “generally ineligible for entry” into the US, it added.

The former prime minister has previously denied accusations of corruption, and last year Lamothe filed a legal challenge against sanctions imposed on him by the Canadian government.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies