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Florida doctor used Miami security firm in alleged plot to steal Haitian presidency, reports say

·3 min read
Director of Haitian National Police Leon Charles speaks during a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 11 July 2021 (EPA)
Director of Haitian National Police Leon Charles speaks during a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 11 July 2021 (EPA)

The American-based doctor alleged to have orchestrated the assassination of Jovenel Moïse planned to assume the presidency after the murder, according to reports.

Haiti’s police chief Léon Charles said Christian Emmanuel Sanon recruited some of the suspects through a firm identified by The Miami Herald as CTU Security, registered in Florida as the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy LLC.

Mr Charles said Mr Sanon flew into Haiti in June with "political objectives" and planned to assume the presidency following the removal of Mr Moïse, according to The Washington Post.

The men’s initial mission was to protect Mr Sanon, but they later received a new one: arrest the president. He said the “operation started from there,” and an additional 22 suspects joined the group. Contact was made with Haitian citizens, Mr Charles added.

Quoting a person who interviewed the detained Colombians in Haiti, the Herald reported the men were recruited by the firm in Doral, Miami, and were paid about $3,000 per month.

Mr Charles said the doctor contacted the US-based Venezuelan company specializing in security, and told the alleged mercenaries they would become his personal bodyguard once president of Haiti.

Police officers found several items at his house, including a hat emblazoned with the logo of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people.

Last week, President Moïse was shot dead while his wife, who was seriously wounded in an attack was flown to Miami and remains hospitalised.

The police chief said a total of 26 Colombians are suspected in the killing of the president and, of them, 18 have been arrested, along with three Haitians. He said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.

“They are dangerous individuals. I’m talking commando, specialised commando,” said Mr Charles while explaining that police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.

The accused has lived in Broward County in Florida, and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. According to records, he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri and filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Mr Sanon identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled “Leadership for Haiti”.

The announcement of his arrest was made hours after hundreds of Haitians sought solace in prayer at early Sunday church services as a political power struggle threatened to further destabilise their fragile country.

Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people, currently has only 10 elected officials after it failed to hold parliamentary elections, leading Moïse to rule by decree for more than a year until his death. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is currently leading Haiti with the help of the police and military, but he faces mounting challenges to his power.

While the streets were calm on Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested the US and the UN for military assistance. However, Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby on Sunday said on Fox News that the Pentagon is analysing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made.

“I think that’s really where are our energies are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable, who’s responsible and how best to hold them accountable going forward,” Mr Kirby said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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