Haitian Businessman Gets Life Sentence in 2021 Assassination of Haiti’s President

Haitian Businessman Gets Life Sentence in 2021 Assassination of Haiti’s President
An image of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is displayed at a news conference in Miami on Feb. 14, 2023. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)

MIAMI—A federal judge in Miami sentenced a Haitian-Chilean businessman Friday to life in prison for his role in helping Colombian mercenaries get weapons to assassinate Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

Rodolphe Jaar, 51, is the first person to be convicted and sentenced in what U.S. prosecutors have described as a broad plot by conspirators in Haiti and Florida to reap lucrative contracts under a new administration once Moïse was out of the way.

An additional 10 defendants are awaiting trial in the United States.

Jaar, who has dual Haitian and Chilean citizenship, previously had been an informant for the U.S. government and had been convicted of drug trafficking a decade ago. He pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States, and to providing material support resulting in death.

Federal Judge José E. Martínez handed down the sentence at a 10-minute hearing at the federal court in downtown Miami. Jaar received the maximum sentence he faced despite pleading guilty and pledging to cooperate with investigators in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

Moïse was killed on July 7, 2021, when assailants broke into his private home in Port-au-Prince. He was 53 years old.

In addition to Jaar, the other defendants in Miami are: former Colombian soldiers Mario Palacios and Germán Alejandro Rivera García; former Haitian Senator John Joel Joseph; Haitian-Americans James Solages, Joseph Vincent and Christian Emmanuel Sanon; American Federick Joseph Bergmann; Colombian Arcangel Pretel Ortiz; Venezuelan-American Antonio Intriago, and the Ecuadorian-American financier Walter Veintemilla.

The Haitian government also has arrested more than 40 people for their alleged role in the murder, including 18 former Colombian soldiers.

Judge Martínez set a hearing for Aug. 21 to hand down a possible fine.

Jaar entered the hearing room handcuffed and with shackles on his ankles, wearing a prisoner’s beige shirt and pants. He was wearing a face mask and his graying hair was neatly cut. He listened to the judge’s ruling with his head bowed.

The businessman declined to make statements to the judge and has the right to appeal the sentence within two weeks. His lawyer, Frank Schwartz, told The Associated Press after the hearing that Jaar has not yet decided whether to do so and declined to comment further.

Jaar arrived in South Florida in January 2022 after being detained in the Dominican Republic, and has been held in federal detention ever since. According to U.S. authorities, he voluntarily agreed to be transferred to Miami to face the charges against him.

According to charging documents, the conspirators initially planned to kidnap the Haitian president, and later changed the plan to kill him instead. Plotters had hoped to win contracts under a successor to Moïse, investigators allege.

Jaar was responsible for supplying weapons to Colombian mercenaries for the operation, court documents say. Several of the former South American soldiers also stayed in a house controlled by Jaar, according to the charges.

By Gisela Salomon