Two US citizens arrested over the assassination of Jovenel Moïse have allegedly claimed they were hired as translators in a plot to arrest the Haitian president but not to kill him.
Haitian-born American citizens James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, are said to have confessed to being involved in Wednesday’s early morning raid that left Moïse dead and his wife fighting for her life.
‘The mission was to arrest President Jovenel Moïse, within the framework of the execution of a mandate of an investigating judge and not to kill him,’ the judge said they had both claimed.
Solages said he ‘found this job on the internet’, Noël told the outlet.
Authorities are now investigating if the plot was an inside job with the president’s key security personnel facing interrogation.
Jean Laguel Civil, Moïse’s security coordinator and Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace will be questioned.
Haitian Prosecutor Me Bed-Ford Claude said he had seen no casualties among the president’s security detail following the assassination.
‘They are responsible for the security of the president… I did not see any police victim except the president and his wife. If you are responsible for the security of the president where were you?’
Officials said they are still looking for the ‘intellectual authors’ of the plot. National Police Director Leon Charles said ‘we have the physical perpetrators in hand and we are looking for the instigators.’
It also emerged that the hit squad stayed at a home recently vacated by politician Magalie Habitant, an apparent ally of the murdered president.
However, she claims she left the property in Thomassin three months ago and hired it from a lawyer.
Habitant was implicated in a 2019 plot when seven heavily-armed foreign mercenaries were arrested in Haiti before fleeing the country. She was suspected of buying the vehicles used by the group and was temporarily banned from leaving the country.
In total, Haiti National Police said there were 28 presumed assassins responsible for Wednesday’s raid, with 17 arrested, three dead and eight still at large.
James Solages, 35, (left) and Joseph Vincent (right) are seen at a Thursday press conference where Haitian authorities paraded the detained suspects. The two US citizens allegedly claimed they were hired as translators in a plot to arrest the Haitian president but not to kill him
Haitian Prosecutor Me Bed-Ford Claude said he had requested the interrogation of Jean Laguel Civil, Moïse’s security coordinator, (left with the president) and Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace (right), as he suggested it might be an inside job and demanded to know: ‘where were you?’
It has now also been claimed that the alleged mercenaries stayed in the home of Magalie Habitant (pictured) – an ally of the murdered president and prominent member of the PHTK political party
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise are shown to the media in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday
Weaponry, mobile phones, passports and other items are being shown to the media along with suspects in the assassination
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and First Lady Martine are pictured together in 2017. Moïse was riddled with 12 bullet holes and had his eye gouged out during Wednesday’s brutal attack, which killed him and seriously injured his wife
The remaining 26 are all Colombians with the Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano saying preliminary information points to them being retired members of the country’s military.
While the public is demanding answers around who is responsible for the death of their president, the nation is also in turmoil over who is the next rightful leader.
Under the constitution, Haiti’s chief justice René Sylvestre would normally take charge after the President’s death – but he died of COVID-19 two weeks ago.
Following Moïse’s slaying, a power struggle has broken out between Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and Prime Minister-elect Ariel Henry.
Moïse’s assassination came just one day after Moïse named Ariel Henry as the new prime minister.
However, Joseph assumed sole power of the embattled country, declaring a ‘state of siege’ granting him absolute authority hours after the president’s murder.
There are growing questions over who had a motive to order Moïse’s assassination as the alleged mercenary execution squad are slowly rounded up and details are emerging about the individuals.
Sources told Reuters that US intelligence and law enforcement officials are now probing American connections to Moïse’s assassination following the arrest of the two US citizens Thursday.
Solages had been staying in Haiti for the last month while Vincent for the last six months, according to Noël.
The ‘mercenaries’ had been in the Caribbean country for around three months, he said Solages claimed.
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo however reported that the Colombian mercenaries flew on June 6 to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, before crossing over to Haiti.
Solages’ now-deleted Facebook account claimed he spoke Spanish, English, French and Haitian Creole, while his shocked relatives said he had no military experience and was not known to harbor radical political beliefs.
He is the president of a charity based in south Florida whose website – which has now gone offline – claims to be focused on ending childhood hunger in Haiti.
The 35-year-old’s bio on the site boasted numerous credentials including claims he is a ‘certified diplomatic agent,’ a politician ‘promoting his country by focusing on compassion programs and counseling economic development program’ and the former chief commander of bodyguards for The Canadian embassy in Haiti.
Haitian-born American citizens James Solages, 35, (above) and Joseph Vincent, 55, are said to have confessed to being involved in Wednesday’s early morning raid at the president’s mansion near Port-au-Prince
The deputy justice of the peace of Pétion-Ville Judge Clément Noël told local paper Le Nouvelliste Solages (pictured) and Vincent – who both live in Florida – told authorities ‘they were translators’
Police lined up the 17 assassination suspects, including two American citizens and 15 Colombians, behind a table displaying an array of firearms, machetes, sledgehammers and several Colombian passports
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, among them Haitian-American citizens James Solages, left, and Joseph Vincent, second left, are shown to the media at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince
However, Canada’s foreign relation department released a statement that did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained had been ‘briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard’ at its embassy by a private contractor.
And relatives who have spoken out since Solages arrest say he once had a failed attempt to run for mayor in his hometown of Jacmel and had no military service.
Solage’s uncle Schubert Dorisme told Seattle Times from his home in Florida that the family was shocked to hear of his alleged involvement as they learned of his arrest in the media.
Dorisme told the outlet his nephew has ‘no military training’, adding that ‘I don’t know how this thing happened.’
He told the outlet his nephew would often travel back and forth between Haiti and his home in south Florida to carry out work for his charity in Jacmel.
Solages once made an unsuccessful run for mayor in Jacmel, he said.
Dorisme insisted Solages was not known to harbor radical political beliefs, however, he said he believed his nephew’s latest trip was for the purpose of carrying out the attack.
‘I think, for me, I think he went down there just for that,’ he said.
Dorisme said he did not know how long Solages had been staying in Haiti leading up to Wednesday’s attack.
After earlier claiming seven suspects were killed, Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, now claims that only three other suspects were killed by police, saying eight others are on the run
Soldiers frog march two of the suspects in the assassination after displaying them for the media at a press conference
Police officers guard a group of suspects accused of having participated in the assassination of the Haitian President
He told the outlet he was upset over Moïse’s death and likened his nephew’s alleged involvement to being like ‘my son killed my brother.’
‘First of all, I’m sorry for what happened about my president. I am deeply sorry. It feels like my son killed my brother,’ Dorisme said.
‘I love my president, and I love James Solages.’
Solages’ aunt Victorie Dorisme also spoke of her disbelief at his involvement in the president’s assassination.
She told the Miami Herald she had ‘never heard of him in any trouble like this.’
Instead, she said he spent his time working as a building maintenance man and running his charity and was going through a divorce.
Prior to his arrest as part of an international assassination plot, the 35-year-old had no criminal record.
Solages’ Facebook was taken offline Thursday following his arrest.
On his LinkedIn account, which remains active, Solages is listed as having achieved an associate’s degree in IT at FCC College in Miami and worked for a technology maintenance firm from 2016 to 2019.
He is also listed as CEO of EJS Maintenance and Repair, plant operation director at Senior Lifestyle and president at JacmelFirst.
Haitian police transport two other men in the back of a cop trailer to the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince. Police said the two men are suspects in the murder of Haiti president Jovenel Moïse
The two men were reportedly found hiding in bushes by civilians who roughed them up before turning them over to police
One of the men detained by Haitian police on suspicion of being involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse
Another male suspect is seen covered in blood as he was loaded into the back of a police car Thursday – one day on from the deadly raid on the president’s mansion
The bodies of two of the people killed by police are pictured being transported away in a police vehicle Thursday
People look in through the window of the police car at the bodies of two of the people suspected of being involved in the assassination of the president
Jacmel First’s charitable mission is to support the growth and development of underprivileged people in Haiti and specifically Jacmel – a port town on the south coast of the country, the website says.
This includes through education, health education and the implementation of sanitation systems.
Attempts by DailyMail.com to reach his charity by phone did not go through or were not answered.
Meanwhile, little is known about Vincent, other than officials saying he lives in Miami.
It is not clear if the two men were known to each other prior to their alleged involvement in the president’s assassination.
Footage from the raid reveals an attacker with an American accent shouting in English ‘this is a DEA operation.’
Haiti’s Minister of Elections and Inter-party Relations Mathias Pierre identified four of the other suspects from Colombia as: Alejandro Girardo Zapata, 41; John Jairo Ramirez Gomez, 40; Victor Albeiro Pinera Cardona, 40; and Manuel Antonio Groso Guarin, 41.
None of the other detainees or those killed have been named.
Officials paraded the suspected assassins in a press conference Thursday night but are yet to provide evidence of their involvement or details of any plot other than to say it was carried out by ‘foreign mercenaries and professional killers.’
Questions are growing around how a group of heavily armed ‘assassins’ successfully got past the president’s own security detail, penetrated his home and carried out the attack unscathed only to appear not to have a getaway plan in place and be captured several hours later.
POWER STRUGGLE: Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (left) has seized power of the country, declaring a state of emergency, just days before he was due to be replaced by the country’s coronavirus tsar Ariel Henry (right), the man Moise had named as Joseph’s successor
Interim President Claude Joseph, center, looks at the suspects at the press briefing Thursday. Joseph has assumed absolute power by declaring a ‘state of siege’ despite questions over who should assume the presidency
Haitian Prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude told Le Nouvelliste he had requested the interrogation of the bodyguards close to the president, in particular Laguel Civil and Hérard.
‘I gave the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) delegation of power to hear all the security agents close to President Jovenel Moïse,’ he told the outlet.
‘I also issued two invitations on Tuesday July 13 and Wednesday July 14 in order to [interrogate Civil and Hérard].’
‘What did you do to avoid this fate to the president?’ he asked.
Bed-Ford Claude said there are many questions that need answering with regards to the president’s security and claimed the top bodyguard Laguel Civil was yet to hand over information about the night’s events.
He said he had seen Laguel Civil at Moïse’s mansion in the aftermath and had requested Wednesday a list of all the security agents present at the time of the attack.
As of Thursday, Bed-Ford Claude claimed he was yet to hand over the information.
‘They must tell me where they were,’ he said.
The prosecutor has also requested to interview Inspector Paul Eddy Amazan, head of the Cat-Team and Commissioner Léandre Pierre Osman, head of the Palace Security Unit (USP), he said, as authorities continue to investigate who is responsible for the assassination.
Speculation of a possible inside job comes as Haiti’s Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said ‘there is no doubt about it… there was some internal help.’
Just after 1am on Wednesday, assassins shouting in American accents ‘DEA operation, stand down’ stormed into the 53-year-old president’s private residence in the hills above the capital, ransacking bedrooms and offices, and leaving him to die an horrific death with machine gun fire riddling his body from his head down to his legs.
Magistrate Carl Henry Destin told the Nouvelliste newspaper that the president’s body had been ripped apart by 12 bullets from large caliber rifles and smaller 9mm weapons, to the forehead, chest, hips and abdomen.
Moise’s wife First Lady Martine, 47, was shot through the legs, arm, torso and hand.
She was first treated at a local hospital then airlifted in a ‘critical condition’ to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami where officials said she is now ‘out of danger’ and in a ‘stable condition.’
Their adult daughter Jormalie was left fearing for her life as she cowered in a bedroom but was able to escape unharmed while a maid and another domestic staff member were tied up by the gunmen.
Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbour of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property
Footage circulating in Haitian WhatsApp groups purports to show men with rifles arriving at the president’s home last night
Police chief Leon Charles told a news conference on Thursday that three suspects had been killed by police in a gun battle following the assassination, while eight others were on the run.
‘Foreigners came to our country to kill the president,’ Charles said. ‘There were… 26 Colombians, identified by their passports… and two Haitian Americans as well.’
‘We are going to bring them to justice,’ he said as the 17 suspects sat handcuffed on the floor during a press conference on Thursday night, where a variety of weapons and Colombian passports were arrayed on a table.
Eleven of them were captured in a special forces raid on the Taiwanese embassy Thursday where they had broken in as part of a doomed attempt to get diplomatic protection.
‘As for whether the suspects were involved in the assassination of the President of Haiti, that will need to be investigated by the Haitian police,’ Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou told The Associated Press in Taipei.
Police were alerted by embassy security guards while Taiwanese diplomats were working from home.
The ministry said some doors and windows were broken but there was no other damage to the embassy.
Taiwan has close diplomatic ties with Haiti as one of the few states to recognize its independence from China – though it is not clear why its consulate was chosen as a hideout.
Four other suspects were captured by civilians on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
Footage showed two Colombians being hauled through the streets with ropes around their midriffs by locals.
A car riddled with bullet holes outside the late president’s home in the hills near Port-au-Prince on Wednesday
Members of the Haitian police and forensics mark a bullet on the street as they look for evidence outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Investigators work near Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s home in Port-au-Prince collecting evidence after the assassination
The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince
One of the men was shirtless and covered in blood as people shoved the pair amid shouts and shrieks from the mob to ‘burn them’.
The crowd later set fire to several abandoned cars riddled with bullet holes that they believed belonged to the suspects.
The cars didn’t have license plates, and inside one was an empty box of bullets and some water.
Police chief Charles urged the public to stay calm and let his officers do their work, warning that they could be destroying crucial evidence.
Another two alleged hired guns were discovered hiding in bushes by a crowd who grabbed them, before they were handed over to police and loaded onto a truck.
Police originally claimed to have killed seven ‘commandos’ in a shoot-out throughout Wednesday in which three cops were taken hostage, but later freed.
The death toll was later revised down to three suspects slain, yet the confusion around the numbers was not explained.
Two of the bodies of the suspects killed were seen being transported away in the back of a police van Thursday.
No motive has been given for the attack.
Haiti has descended into chaos in the wake of the assassination, with desperate fugitive mercenaries dying in the streets, a town official lynched and burned to death and prisoners mutinying in jails.
President Jovenel Moise battled deadly riots as he oversaw massive inflation, food and fuel shortages as he clung onto power
President Jovenel Moise battled violent protests as he oversaw massive inflation, food and fuel shortages in Haiti since taking power in 2017.
The poorest country in the Americas has failed to establish a working democracy since overthrowing the Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s.
Moise, a former auto parts salesman, took office with just 600,000 votes in the country of 11 million and faced an uphill task in holding onto his mandate.
In 2019, he faced fury over fuel and food shortages amid steep currency devaluation and corruption allegations. At least 17 people were killed and hundreds were injured in the riots.
The anger rumbled on into the following year as Moise refused to hold elections, claiming that his five-year presidential term wasn’t due to run out until 2022.
Haiti has struggled to achieve political stability since a popular uprising in 1986 ended 28 years of dynastic dictatorship by Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.
The last few decades have been marked by coups, unrest and foreign interventions.
Only two presidents have managed to serve their entire term.
Successive governments have failed to spark real development in the island nation that has to regularly contend with deadly natural disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes.
The country had received much aid in the wake of the 2010 quake that killed around 300,000, but that has tapered off of late.
Moise, however, failed to cut expenses, meaning the budget deficit deepened to record levels.
The local currency depreciated against the dollar and inflation was rampant.
More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than 2.4 U.S. dollars a day, according to the World Bank.
Allegations in a report by the Superior Court of Auditors of the embezzlement of billions of dollars by public officials and those close to them, including Moise before he became president, have also sparked ire.
The PetroCaribe program included a fund for infrastructure and social projects in member countries. Opposition politicians say no serious projects were ever completed.
Moise, whom some opposition members accuse of buying votes in parliament for his prime minister nominees, has denied any wrongdoing, but his government has failed to investigate further.
Haiti ranked 161 from 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 global survey of corruption.
As a result, many Haitians have lost faith in politics. Only 21 percent of the electorate turned out for the last presidential election in 2016.
Opposition politicians say that fact undermines the legitimacy of the presidency of Moise, a former businessman with little prior political experience.
But they have themselves failed to get voters out to polling booths, instead resorting to disrupting parliament and calling for street protests, making Haiti hard to govern.
Moise took few public steps to address peoples’ grievances, leading to massive unrest in recent years, including riots in February.