Haitian gang leader charged in kidnapping of missionaries

A leader of the Haitian gang 400 Mawozo has been indicted on charges in connection with the 2021 kidnapping of 17 missionaries. Joly Germine, 29, who last week was extradited to the U.S. to face weapons trafficking charges, now also faces a charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Germine, also known as "Yonyon," is the first person to be charged in relation to the kidnapping, which took place near Port au Prince, Haiti, in October 2021.

The indictment alleges that Germine, "exercised control over portions of 400 Mawozo's kidnapping operations, to include the ransom negotiation for the release of the Hostages." The Justice Department said that, in addition to the ransom demanded for each hostage, 400 Mawozo also sought to secure Germine's release from prison in exchange for the hostage's freedom.

Prior to his arrival in the U.S., Germine had been in custody in Haiti since 2018. In the previous indictment for the trafficking charges, the Department of Justice claimed that Germine had still been running the 400 Mowazo gang from prison using "unmonitored" cell phones.

The indictment for trafficking charges, which was unsealed last week, alleged that Germine had been in contact with a man referred to as Individual 2, who is described in the indictment as a "Haitian national and a leader of 400 Mawozo." According to the indictment, Individual 2 claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens, including five children, and one Canadian citizen who were in Haiti performing missionary work for Christian Aid Ministries.

"Individual 2 would instruct Germine regarding the types of firearms that 400 Mawozo needed," the indictment alleged, adding that "Tunis, Dor and St. Louis obtained from Germine specifications for weapons and ammunition that Germine and Individual 2 wanted to be sent to Haiti for use by 400 Mawozo."

Three other individuals, Haitian nationals Jocelyn Dor, 29, and Walder St. Louis, 33, and U.S. citizen Eliande Tunis, 43, are also charged with smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy in relation to the alleged weapons trafficking.

The gang had asked for a $1 million ransom for each of the hostages, the indictment said. Two hostages were freed in November 2021 and three more were released in early December. The remaining 12 were released later in December. It was not clear how any of their releases were secured or if a ransom was paid, but, according to Tuesday's indictment, the last group of hostages to be freed had "escaped from captivity."

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