United States authorities have arrested and charged four people in Florida in connection to the 2021 assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
US Justice Department officials announced on Tuesday charges of “conspiracy to kidnap or kill outside the United States, resulting in death” against Florida residents Antonio “Tony” Intriago, Arcangel Pretel Ortiz and Walter Veintemilla.
A fourth suspect, Frederick Bergmann, is accused of conspiring to smuggle ballistic vests for former Colombian soldiers who allegedly carried out the fatal shooting.
Intriago is the owner of CTU Security, a Florida-based company that allegedly helped recruit the assassins. Ortiz is also a “principal” representative of the firm, according to the Justice Department.
Veintemilla, is accused of funding the operation through his company Worldwide Capital Lending Group, which allegedly extended a $175,000 line of credit to CTU and sent money for ammunition.
In July 2021, armed men claiming to be US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents entered Moise’s compound in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and fatally shot him 12 times. The late former president’s wife was also injured in the attack.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti has suffered from natural disasters, rampant gang violence and a longstanding political deadlock made worse by the assassination.
“While the murder of President Moise occurred in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, most of the planning, funding and direction of the plot to violently overthrow the president occurred right here in the United States,” Markenzy Lapointe, US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, told reporters on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s arrests bring the total number of defendants in US custody to 11, including key players like James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both Haitian Americans.
Moise’s killing has aggravated an already dire situation in Haiti, where the government has been struggling to secure the country against powerful gangs.
Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry appealed to the international community last year to set up a “specialised armed force” to quell gang violence in the country, but some civil society groups have rejected the prospect of foreign intervention.
Rights advocates have also questioned Henry’s legitimacy and blamed him for the political turmoil after he indefinitely postponed presidential and legislative elections previously set for 2021.