A Haiti judge has issued more than a dozen arrest warrants for individuals accused of looting and torching a million dollar beach resort in northern Haiti owned by a Haitian-American engineer and his wife.
“It was a hired mob of at least 30-40 people,” said Jude Jean-Gilles, the owner of the Joupana Beach Resort, which was set ablaze Saturday in Port Français, a hillside village near Haiti’s northern coast between the town of Labadie and Baie de l’Acul. “I wasn’t there but they tell me it was a large, large crowd.”
Dariot Jean, a justice of the peace, said he issued arrest warrants Tuesday for 15 individuals involved in the incident, which unfolded within eyesight of him and seven police officers. They had been called to the property, he said, to investigate a corpse, which Jean-Gilles believes was planted, and had already boarded a boat to head back to nearby Plaine-du-Nord when the crowd began stealing the furnishings before setting the property ablaze.
“It was a large crowd,” Jean said in a telephone interview. “Because we can’t pursue everybody, we took… those who were most active.”
There was no way that he and the police officers could have stopped the incident, the judge said. They were already too far at sea onboard the boat when the attack unfolded. By the time they would have turned around to head back to Joupana, the crowd would have already dispersed into the hills, Jean said.
Jean wouldn’t say if the corpse was planted, but he noted that three days earlier when he was first called out to the property, this time to investigate a false kidnapping, “there was no dead body.” He also noted that the male corpse was already decaying when he and the officers arrived to investigate. The police commissioner for the region said an investigation is ongoing.
“This is something that was well orchestrated in my opinion,” Jean-Gilles, 55, said.
A resident of Virginia, Jean-Gilles said he and his wife, Beatrice, a registered nurse, have spent the last 12 years building the resort and have poured their life savings, including their 401K retirement funds, into its four buildings and beach cabanas and umbrellas.
“They burned down everything and they looted about 100 beach chairs and tables, refrigerators, freezers. I had two generators… and two boat engines; they carried those away,” said Jean-Gilles, who was born in nearby Cap-Haïtien. “We have spent over $2 million of our own money with no bank investments on the project.”
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