By Maria Abi-Habib for the New York Times/ The original text appears here
Officials are examining whether President Jovenel Moïse’s killing was tied to the drug trade. The man in charge of his safety was a suspect in a major trafficking case, they say.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The commander in charge of guarding the Haitian president’s home quickly became a suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month when his security team inexplicably melted away, enabling hit men to enter the residence with little resistance and kill the president in his own bedroom.
But current and former officials say that the commander, Dimitri Hérard, was already a suspect in a separate case that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has pursued for years: the disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of cocaine and heroin that were whisked away by corrupt officials only hours before law enforcement agents showed up to seize them.
Now, some international officials assisting with the investigation into the president’s assassination say they are examining whether those criminal networks help explain the killing. Haitian officials, including the country’s prime minister, have acknowledged that the official explanation presented in the days after the assassination — that Mr. Moïse was gunned down in an elaborate plot to seize political office — does not entirely add up, and that the true motive behind the murder has not been uncovered.
Haiti is a major transit point for drugs heading to the United States, and American and United Nations officials say the trade flourishes through an array of politicians, businesspeople and members of law enforcement who abuse their power. Now, current and former officials say that Mr. Hérard has long been a focal point of the investigation into one of the biggest drug trafficking cases the D.E.A. has ever pursued in Haiti.
“The corruption goes up to the top levels,” said Keith McNichols, a former D.E.A. agent who was stationed in Haiti and led the agency’s investigation into the missing drug shipment. “Justice is elusive.”
The sprawling drug case not only involves Mr. Hérard, but also judges and the brother-in-law of a former Haitian president. Officials say the staggering quantity of drugs spirited away by officials illustrates the extent to which Haiti has become a narco-state — with Haitian politicians, members of the judiciary and even American officials in the D.E.A. enabling corruption for years.
When a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship called the MV Manzanares docked at a privately owned seaport in Haiti’s capital in April 2015, officials say that longshoremen began offloading what they thought were bags full of sugar — until one ripped open, revealing the valuable, illicit goods inside.