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Feds serve Florida search warrants related to assassination of Haiti’s President Moïse

Officials attend a ceremony in honor of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise. (Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Dozens of federal agents fanned out across South Florida Tuesday to carry out the first search warrants related to the assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, focusing on two local businessmen Haitian authorities suspect funded and trained the group of Colombians and others implicated in his killing.

Teams of FBI and Homeland Security Investigations agents zeroed in on five locations in Doral, Westchester and Weston in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to gather financial records and other documents as part of the federal investigation into Moïse’s death at his home on July 7.

The federal investigation, run by the counterterrorism section of the U.S. attorney’s office, is trying determine whether the local businesses conspired to provide “material support” that resulted in the killing of Moïse or any other lesser crimes such as export violations, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

U.S. agents have struggled with putting the pieces of the probe together because there is no indication so far that the South Florida businessmen had any involvement in the president’s death — though they have been identified by the Haiti National Police as playing a possible supportive role in the assassination. No evidence has been uncovered showing they knew anything about a plot to kill Moïse, several sources familiar with the investigation told the Miami Herald.

The FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

The joint operation involved searches of the homes and offices of Antonio Intriago, the head of CTU Security in Doral, and Walter Veintemilla, a loan broker who owns Worldwide Capital Lending Group and lives in Weston. Another search warrant was executed on West Flagler Street in Westchester.

Haitian authorities say they suspect Intriago of having trained Colombians, Haitians and others in an alleged plot to kill Haiti’s president and that Veintemilla’s lending company provided funding to pay for the training. Haitian police say that Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a doctor who has lived in Haiti and South Florida over the past 25 years, was behind the plot and wanted to take over as president.

Attorneys for Intriago said Tuesday that they were surprised federal agents carried out searches of the businessman’s home and office because he had been cooperating with them since Moïse’s assassination, including turning over his cellphone and computer to Homeland Security Investigations.

“We’re doing everything we can to show our client has nothing to do with this (assassination),” said attorney Gilberto Lacayo. “Our client is not hiding. He’s trying to clear his name.”

Veteran criminal defense attorney Joseph Tesmond, who is working with Lacayo, said the Haitian police have completely miscast Intriago in their investigation. Meanwhile, Intriago, a Venezuelan émigré, “has cooperated 100%” with federal law enforcement in South Florida, Tesmond said.

Tesmond said Intriago obtained two loans from Veintemilla’s lending company — one last year for CTU’s general operations and another for $172,000 this spring to provide security for Sanon in his quest to become Haiti’s next president. He said Sanon’s goal was to improve the lives of Haitians through infrastructure projects for energy, water and other basic needs, while also pursuing the presidency in a peaceful transition of power.

Tesmond said that Intriago and his company, CTU, were hoping to obtain more “security opportunities” in Haiti.

Intriago has not broken his silence or talked publicly since Moïse’s assassination. Intriago had told members of the Venezuelan exile community that he’d been a police officer before arriving in the United States. In recent years, he provided firearms training and conducted personal-security classes in South Florida and sold body protection gear.

Robert Nicholson, a private lawyer for Veintemilla, an Ecuadorian émigré, said his client did little more than broker a loan for CTU Security and later raised less than $200,000 from private lenders for what he thought was an effort to create renewable energy via the leadership of Sanon, a Haitian-American pastor as well as being a doctor.

Sanon was arrested in Haiti and charged early on with being the alleged intellectual author of the assassination effort. He had circulated to the U.S. State Department and the Congressional Black Caucus a petition purportedly signed by evangelical leaders calling for Sanon to be made interim president of Haiti.

The U.S. searches of the two local businessmen’s homes and offices come amid concerns in Haiti that some may be trying to stymie the investigation or politicize it. Two judges and two court clerks have complained about receiving “serious death threats” and pressure to change their reports from unknown individuals over the telephone, according to sources and copies of one complaint obtained by the Herald.

The two court clerks have filed a formal complaint with the Central Directorate of the Judicial police, which has been carrying out the investigation on behalf of the Haiti National Police.

“The minister of justice has not done anything to help them,” said Pierre Esperance, the executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, who has been following the case.

Esperance said the clerks have been asked to amend their reports to remove the names of two individuals and to include the names of two opponents of the late president.

Esperance said in addition to the threats, there are concerns that three weeks after the president’s assassination, the case remains in the hands of the judicial police and it has yet to be transferred to an investigative judge as required under Haitian law. Police have also not been forthcoming about the information, he said.

“We are concerned that they are manipulating the investigation to have it take on a political element,” he said.

On Monday, as the probe on the island continued, Haitian authorities arrested the coordinator of Moïse’s security, the man’s lawyer, Reynold Georges, confirmed to the Herald.

Georges said he doesn’t know on what basis his client, Haiti National Police Divisional Commissioner Jean Laguel Civil, had been arrested, and “perhaps they will tell me tomorrow.”

Civil, who doesn’t control any troops in the president’s multilayered security detail but oversees those who do, is among the individuals Moïse contacted in the middle of the night on July 7 after he heard shooting in the vicinity of his private residence.

At the time of his arrest, Civil had already been placed in solitary confinement under orders from judicial authorities, along with others responsible for the president’s security.

Civil’s arrest came on the same day that Haitian authorities announced they have issued an arrest warrant for a member of the country’s highest court in the ongoing investigation into who killed Moïse.

Police released a wanted poster with the image of Superior Court Justice Windelle Coq Thélot seeking information about her whereabouts but not spelling out why she is wanted in connection with the probe. In an arrest order, Thélot is accused of assassination, attempted assassination and armed robbery.


© 2021 Miami Herald
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