“He came with the intention of assuming the presidency of the Republic,” the director general of the Haitian National Police, Léon Charles, said of Sanon at a press conference on Sunday. He was also the first person one of the men allegedly involved in the murder of President Jovenel Moise called after the attack, Charles said.
But Sanon has insisted on his innocence, according to a source close to the investigation who cannot be named because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
The 63-year-old was arrested over the weekend during a police raid on an otherwise peaceful hilltop neighborhood in the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the source. The houses there are large and closed, and a short walk from the residence of Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who currently rules the country.
Inside a sprawling compound whose doors read “International Medical Village,” police found boxes of ammunition and gun and pistol holsters, the CNN source said. According to a police statement, they also found 24 unused shooting targets, a cap marked “DEA” and four license plates from the Dominican Republic. Legal notices affixed to the property warn that it is now a sealed site amid the ongoing investigation.
Sanon told police he was unaware of the attack on the president and was unaware that the weapons and other materials seized were in the building, according to the source. He also told police he was a Christian pastor and stressed that the building was not his home or property, the source said.
Police accused Sanon of recruiting the men who allegedly killed the president. A person who works nearby said they noticed an increase in activity over the past month, describing strangers who were “muscular like bodyguards, wearing camouflage pants” frequently going back and forth between the complex apparent medical and a house across the street.
But when asked about the 26 Colombians and two other Haitian-Americans suspected in the investigation, Sanon stressed that “he does not know anything at all”, according to the source. “He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. That’s what he has said since the day the authorities questioned him.”
Police have not announced any formal charges against Sanon, and it is not yet clear whether Sanon has retained legal representation to deal with the charges. CNN could not reach him for comment.
‘Dr. Christian Sanon: Leadership for Haiti ‘
Police say Sanon was born in the Haitian seaside village of Marigot and returned to the Caribbean country in June, in a private plane accompanied by hired guards.
Although little is known about Sanon in the years leading up to his arrest, publicly available information indicates that he was involved in a range of charitable endeavors.
In the early 2000s, Sanon helped run medical clinics in Haiti for the Rome Foundation, a now-closed Florida-based nonprofit that once did humanitarian work overseas.
“Dr Sanon offers not only medicine for the body but also medicine for the soul. Steadfast, Dr Sanon gives the good news of Jesus Christ to those who seek real answers in a land controlled by Satan,” reads -on in a 2004 “leadership profile” published on an archived version of the Rome Foundation website.
Larry Chadwell, the organization’s former president, told CNN in a brief interview that Sanon went to medical school in the Dominican Republic and was licensed to practice in Haiti but not in the United States. A biography of Sanon published by the Florida Baptist Historical Society indicates that he graduated from Eugenio Maria de Hostos University in the Dominican Republic.
A person who worked with Sanon in the early 2000s, when Sanon was part of the foundation, told CNN that Sanon, a minister, was a compelling speaker who was responsible for raising many donations to the organization. “He’s very articulate, very believable,” the person said.
Sanon was also spearheading an initiative within the organization to build a hospital in the Tabarre district, according to the person and Dr. Ludner Confident, a Haitian-born doctor who helped collect organization funds.
Confident called Sanon a “legitimate humanitarian” and “someone trying to help”.
“The whole organization was made up of Christians who have a good heart to help the poor,” Confident said.
The video, titled “Dr Christian Sanon: Leadership for Haiti”, also showed Sanon describing the country’s leaders as corrupt and appearing to criticize then-president Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly as “weak” and “selling his soul. “.
The investigation continues
With Sanon in custody, three US citizens are now believed to be linked to the attack. James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both naturalized Americans from Haiti, were arrested last week.
Haitian police are currently chasing 10 new local suspects, according to a Haitian government source. In total, at least 39 people have been implicated in the assassination so far.
The official Twitter account of the Haitian National Police (PNH) named three of these suspects on Tuesday: Joseph Felix Badio, former senator John Joel Joseph and Rodolphe Jaar (alias Dodof). Each is suspected of murder, attempted murder and armed robbery, according to police reports, and has been described by police as “armed and dangerous”.
Several suspects also worked as informants for US law enforcement, according to people briefed on the matter.
At least one of the men arrested in connection with the assassination by Haitian authorities previously worked as an informant for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA said in a statement in response to CNN.
“At times, one of the suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was a confidential DEA source,” the DEA said in a statement.
Following the assassination of President Moise, the suspect contacted his contacts at the DEA. A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a US State Department official, provided information to the Haitian government who assisted in the suspect’s surrender and arrest and another person, ”the DEA said.
The DEA said it was aware of reports that some assassins shouted “DEA” at the time of their attack. The DEA said in its statement that none of the attackers were operating on behalf of the agency.
Other suspects also had ties to the United States, including working as informants for the FBI, those briefed on the matter said. The FBI said in response to CNN’s information that it did not comment on informants except to say it was using “lawful sources to gather intelligence” in its investigations.
The United States sent senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents to assist with the investigation, and State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that the United States were still assessing requests for assistance from the Haitian government, which requested troops to help. protect key infrastructure in a country where criminal violence is endemic.
“We are evaluating how best to meet the needs of the Haitian government at this time. As I said, right now a lot of this is focused on the ongoing investigation into the murder of President Moise, ”he said. “In addition to the interagency team, the FBI and DHS have also been engaged in the field to determine investigative means and investigative support that Haiti may need in this investigation. “
Asked about the request for security assistance, Price said: “We know that in this case there may be protection needs in the context of critical infrastructure.”
“We are looking at this closely as well,” he said on Tuesday.
Reporting contributed by Natalie Gallon and Matt Rivers of CNN in Port-au-Prince, Mitchell McCluskey in Atlanta and Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler and Jasmine Wright in Washington.