Feds Say It Took 12 Years and 10 Attempts to Arrest Ex-Haiti Rebel Leader, Guy Philippe

Just months after a U.S. grand jury indicted ex-Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe on drug-trafficking charges, federal authorities attempted to trick him into accepting travel documents that would bring him to South Florida — and into the arms of the law.

But Philippe, a roguish former Haiti National Police commander who two years earlier had led the insurgency against then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, didn’t take the bait.

The ploy was only one of more than 10 attempts by U.S. law enforcement — with the help of Haiti National Police — to bring Philippe to justice during an elaborate, international game of cat-and-mouse that spanned almost a dozen years before his arrest Jan. 5 outside a Haiti radio station.

“On numerous occasions, agents traveled to Haiti and worked with their Haitian counterparts to strategize and execute arrest operations that were unsuccessful,” federal prosecutors admitted for the first time in court documents filed this week. “During these attempts, agents were fired upon and encountered extremely dangerous circumstances in the area.”

Federal agents tried to arrest Philippe, 49, many times in collaboration with the Haiti National Police: setting up checkpoints, paying informants, launching a U.S. military operation and pursuing him in a foot chase but lost him in dense vegetation. Philippe had been a suspected drug trafficker at least since 2000. He is the last high-profile defendant from a U.S. crackdown on cocaine smuggling through Haiti that yielded the convictions of more than a dozen drug traffickers, Haitian senior police officers and a former Haitian senator.

Despite the repeated attempts to arrest him, prosecutors said, Philippe would “personally reach out to various agents” over the past decade to discuss the terms of his possible surrender to U.S. authorities. His former Miami attorney even tried to negotiate a lenient sentence of less than three years, and his wife inquired about where he might be imprisoned, according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors this month.

Philippe, who claims in court papers he didn’t know he was wanted on drug-and money-laundering charges by federal authorities, even filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to learn what the U.S. government had on him.

The government’s disclosures, outlined in a 14-page document filed by prosecutor Lynn Kirkpatrick, show for the first time the lengths to which the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service went to arrest Philippe.

Philippe had just been elected to the Haitian Senate when he was arrested outside a Port-au-Prince radio station by Haitian police officers with the anti-drug trafficking unit. The officers arrested him under a Haitian warrant charging him with carrying out a 2016 deadly attack on a police station in southern Haiti.

Within an hour, the officers turned Philippe over to DEA agents — at the request of the U.S. government — and he was immediately expelled from the country with the authorization of Haiti’s minister of justice, according to the prosecution’s new court filings.

Philippe and his defense attorney have repeatedly called the arrest a “kidnapping.”

Prosecutors disclosed the latest information to counter Philippe’s assertion that his arrest was illegal because he had immunity as an elected Haitian senator who was set to be sworn in four days after his arrest.

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SOURCE: Miami Herald
Jacqueline Charles and Jay Weaver