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Déjà vu

Second suspect in Moïse murder nabbed in Jamaica on immigration charges

Published:Sunday | January 16, 2022 | 12:11 AM

Slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
Slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Jamaican authorities are now hammering out a way to deal with John Joel Joseph, a Haitian politician and key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, who was captured by local law enforcement on Friday evening in the southern parish of St Elizabeth.

He’s the second suspect in the case to have been nabbed in Jamaica on immigration charges.

Joseph and members of his family were reportedly arrested at a Warminster house around 8:30 Friday evening by members of the Counter-Terrorism & Organised Crime Unit, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey had earlier confirmed that Joseph’s wife and two children were also detained on immigration charges as the four did not arrive in Jamaican through official ports of entry.

It appears that the four had been in the island for some time before they were nabbed.

“Local investigators have since made contact with the Haitian authorities, who informed them that he is wanted in Haiti as a suspect in the alleged assassination of the Haitian president in 2021,” the JCF said, adding that investigations and operations into the case were ongoing.

Jamaica is a key trans-shipment hub for drug smugglers because of its nodes of vulnerability and its more than 140 informal ports identified by the police. St Elizabeth’s is one of the well-known destinations in the ganja and drugs-for-guns trade involving Haiti.

The St Elizabeth police directed queries about the parish being a smuggling route and base for criminal migrants to the police communication arm.

In one of the largest cocaine seizures made by the security forces, last November, the Jamaica Defence Force’s Maritime, Air and Cyber Command led an operation off the St Elizabeth coast that netted more than 2,000lb of cocaine valued at more than J$1 billion.

Joseph, a former senator and opponent of the Tet Kale party that Moïse belonged to, was listed among five “fugitives” for whom Haiti’s Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent said the country would offer six million gourdes for their arrests.

Joseph allegedly paid in cash for rental cars used by the attackers and had met with other suspects ahead of the killing, according to a leaked investigation report seen by The Sunday Gleaner.

PALACIOS DEPORTED

The other key suspect, ex-Colombian military officer Mario Antonio Palacios, was deported from Jamaica on January 3 in keeping with an order by the Supreme Court here.

However, he was reportedly intercepted in Panama by United States law enforcement agents and taken to Florida where he was charged with various crimes related to Moïse’s assassination.

Palacios was held in Jamaica in October and a deportation order later issued, after which the Jamaican authorities got news that he was wanted in Haiti.

But the deportation order and the lack of an extradition treaty with Haiti created problems, which the authorities are reportedly keen on avoiding with Joseph, given that they know of his links to the assassination case.

Since Joseph is Haitian, he could easily be deported to the country unless the US has interests, a senior Jamaican government official said, refusing to be named because they were not authorised to comment on the case.

The United States Embassy in Jamaica declined to comment on the matter.

The role of the United States has attracted questions in security circles since Palacios cooperated with them and was even interviewed by American investigators while he was in custody in Jamaica.

The Moïse investigation has been fraught with problems and corruption allegations.

Moïse was killed at his private residence overlooking the capital on July 7, 2021.

He was reportedly shot 12 times and had bullet wounds to his forehead and several to his torso.

His left eye had been gouged out and bones in his arm and in his ankle had reportedly been broken.

His wife, Martine Moïse, was also shot in the incident but survived.

editorial@gleanerjm.com