The leader of an infamous gang behind an ongoing armed conflict with another gang in Haiti was flown by federal agents from Port-au-Prince to the United States on Tuesday in connection with the kidnapping of 16 American missionaries last year.
The Haitian National Police confirmed that Germine Joly, better known as Yonyon, was sent to the US aboard a special FBI flight following a US request on April 22.
Joly is believed to be the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, which has been involved in an ongoing armed conflict that has killed at least 20 civilians in the past nine days and forced hundreds of Haitians from their homes in the east zone. from Port au Prince.
Until his transfer on Tuesday, Joly had been held at the Port-au-Prince National Penitentiary. From behind bars, he directed 400 Mawozo using his cell phone and negotiated the release of hostages at the same time he was trying to negotiate his freedom. Known for its mass kidnappings, the gang was behind the kidnapping last year of a group of Roman Catholic clergy, including French nationals, and later of a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries with the Ohio-based charity Christian Aid Ministries.
Some of the American missionaries were held for up to two months before finally being released after an undisclosed ransom was paid. During their captivity, the gang asked for $17 million and his second-in-command, Wilson Joseph, known as Lanmò Sanjou, threatened on social media to “put a bullet” into the missionaries if the gang’s demand for $1 million per hostage I was not found
While the missionaries were being held hostage, federal agents arrested three Floridians on federal charges for allegedly smuggling firearms in barrels from South Florida to 400 Mawozo. The criminal complaint unsealed in late October said that Eliande Tunis, Jocelyn Dor and Walder St. Louis filled orders for weapons such as AK-47s and AR-15s for two anonymous leaders of 400 Mawozo. Tunis is a US citizen, while Dor and St. Louis are Haitian citizens.
Prosecutors say Tunis lived in Florida and “is a member of 400 Mawozo.” The complaint says that on October 9, Tunisia sent an audio file to “co-conspirator 1 on WhatsApp in Creole saying ‘We are snakes’. We slide to get where we’re going. They would be surprised to see Mawozo invade Miami.’”
The FBI criminal complaint for the three defendants does not identify Joly by name, but says co-conspirator 1 “is a Haitian citizen and leader of 400 Mawozo” who is “incarcerated, but still serving as a leader in organization and directs operations. from prison using an unmonitored cell phone.” That individual is believed to be Joly.
The complaint also mentions another individual, although not by name. He is described as serving as. a leader and appearing in “videos posted on social media, said his name and declared himself the leader of 400 Mawozo”. That individual is believed to be “Lanmò Sanjou”, which means “death does not know what day it comes”.
The 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the recent kidnapping of a Dominican diplomat, Guillén Tatis, who disappeared Friday while traveling through the gang’s stronghold of Croix-des-Bouquets on his way to the border.
Sources familiar with Joly’s activities said much of the ransom money raised by his gang went directly to him, which he in turn used to buy guns and keep police officers and lawyers on his payroll. After the arrest of the three Floridians, he became increasingly concerned about his possible extradition, sources told the Miami Herald.
The ongoing armed conflict may have accelerated Joly’s extradition. Rumors of a planned prison break involving the National Penitentiary had been circulating for weeks, and concerns were growing that Joly could meet the same fate as Arnel Joseph, another notorious gang leader targeted by the FBI. Joseph was killed after an escape from Croix-des-Bouquets prison.
In a statement on their Facebook page, Haitian police said Joly is being prosecuted under an international warrant issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia for conspiracy and violation of the Law Reform Act. US Export Control and Smuggling, importation of weapons of war and kidnapping of US citizens.
Joly’s arrest is likely to create panic among Haitian gangs because it offers US law enforcement and State Department officials an opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the 400 Mawozo, which controls one of the most Haitian greats. Following the release of the American missionaries, the gang had splintered, with Joly controlling one group and reportedly launching an attack while he was in prison to show that he was still in charge.
“With Yonyon’s transfers to the US, we can learn a lot about how the gang works and the people connected to it and who give them weapons,” said Pierre Esperance, a human rights activist in Haiti.
In their statement on Tuesday, the Haitian police described Joly as “the leader of the criminal organization called ‘400 Mawozo’ involved in various criminal acts, including murder, kidnapping, vehicle theft, destruction of private property and arson, etc. .”.
Joly was kidnapped by federal agents nine days after his gang launched an attack on a rival gang, Chen Mechan, in the lowlands east of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The armed conflict has caused the death of at least 20 civilians and has caused the burning of several houses. Hundreds of people have had to flee the combat zone.
During the conflict, Lanmò Sanjou issued a voice memo saying that he had been warned of an attempt to kill Joly and that he would kill others if anything happened to the gang leaders.
Joly was first arrested in Haiti in 2014 after authorities charged him with armed robbery, gang membership and kidnapping.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.