WASHINGTON: US federal agents arrested and charged four suspects in Florida for alleged roles in the plot that led to the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, authorities said on Tuesday. Moise’s murder left a political vacuum in the Caribbean nation and emboldened powerful gangs who serve as de facto authorities in large parts of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Eleven individuals are now in US custody and charged by a South Florida grand jury in connection with the murder, according to the Justice Department.Three of the new defendants — Antonio “Tony” Intriago, owner of Counter Terrorist Unit Security, or CTU; Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, operator of the affiliated CTU Federal Academy LLC; and Walter Veintemilla, head of Miramar-based Worldwide Capital Lending Group — are accused of supporting a conspiracy to kidnap or kill the president of Haiti, US authorities said in a briefing.
The fourth defendant, Frederick Bergmann, is accused of conspiring to smuggle ballistic vests for former Colombian soldiers who allegedly carried out the fatal shooting of Moise, officials added. Their investigation focuses on weapons, ballistic vests and financing used in the deadly plot.
Intriago is a Venezuelan-American businessman, while Pretel Ortiz is a Colombian-American citizen. Both were detained in South Florida, the Justice Department told reporters. Veintemilla, a US citizen, lent over $170,000 to CTU Security to finance their operations in Haiti, officials added.
The arrests and charges were reported earlier on Tuesday by the Miami Herald and the New York Times. Intriago’s lawyer told the New York Times he intended to enter a not guilty plea at his bond hearing on Tuesday. Haitian gangs have expanded their territory since the assassination. The resulting violence has left much of the country off-limits to the government and led to routine gunbattles with police.
In October, the United Nations suggested a “rapid action force” be sent to Haiti to combat escalating violence from armed gangs whose turf battles have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. The latest arrests in the United States come a day before leaders of the Caribbean bloc, CARICOM, are set to meet for a three-day conference, where the situation in Haiti is expected to be one of the main issues.