Leaked Audio Confession Blows Lid Off Mystery of Haiti’s Murdered President
Hours of audio recordings reportedly reveal grim details behind the assassination of Haiti’s president.
Let’s say that you’re a foreign mercenary. And that you and some of your best buds, who are also foreign mercenaries, have just shot to death the leader of an island nation, the inhabitants of which are now likely to be more than a little vexed with you. And let’s further say that there’s an escape plan already set up that would see you out of the dead president’s home and safely on your way.
What do you think you would do next?
Well, if you were one of the Colombian mercenaries who killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse back in July, you’d apparently choose to push back on the get-away plans so as to stick around and ransack the home looking for loot.
That was just one of many jaw-dropping details revealed during some 15 hours of audio-taped confessions reportedly given by the Colombian mercs to Haitian officials which were, in turn, leaked to Colombian media giant Caracol in late August. In fact, the testimony given by the former soldiers, many of whom had been trained by the U.S., may have solved the riddle of who funded and masterminded the plot against Moïse.
In a follow-up piece by La Semana, another major print and web presence in Colombia, the confessions were confirmed as having been recorded “before the authorities in Haiti.” Subsequently, dozens of media hubs in Latin America ran stories about the Colombians’ tragic misadventures.
“Before the operation [the Colombian mercenaries] had been informed that Moïse had between 18 and 45 million dollars in his house,” Caracol reported. “There were three tasks: the first was to [kill] the president, the second was to take the entire camera system, and the third was to find the suitcases of money,” said retired Colombian army captain Germán Rivera, who is referred to as “Mike” during the audio sessions.
After the assassination, and about a half-hour of searching, Mike and his crew of 26 Colombians and two Haitian American commandos had dismantled the cameras and found “two suitcases and three boxes apparently loaded with bills,” according to Caracol.
The stolen money, say Mike and his men, was intended to compensate both themselves and the Miami-based security firm for which they worked. That company is called CTU, and it has steadfastly denied it was behind the coup, instead blaming Moïse’s own security detail.
But the imprisoned Colombians are clear about who they believe had hired them, and why, even going so far as to allege that CTU had worked with a Haitian named Joseph Felix Badio to help orchestrate the putsch.
Badio and four more allegedly complicit Haitians were allegedly supposed to watch the Colombians’ backs during the operation and assist with their escape plan, which was to race toward the Presidential Palace for the swearing-in of the new president.
Yet when Mike’s team emerged from Moïse’s house, they said they found Badio was gone and the cops were already waiting up the street with armored vehicles.
“[Badio] arrived with us, and the next moment he left with the [other accomplices], he left us alone. They were in a gray Ford,” says Franco Castañeda in the leaked confession.
“The Colombians were duped,” says Mike Vigil, a former U.S. government official who served in Haiti and the Caribbean. “Badio used the mercenaries as fall guys to distance himself from the killing.”
An arrest warrant for “murder and armed robbery” against Moïse was issued in mid-July for Badio, a former member of the Haitian government’s anti-corruption unit. At the time, a high-ranking Haitian official told CNN that, “The intellectual masterminds are bigger than [Badio]. Who financed the operation is still the big question mark.”
But Vigil said that big question might have just been answered by the Colombians’ declarations. “It looks like there wasn’t another mastermind needed to fund this operation,” Vigil said.
In an interview published on Aug. 22 with the Colombian media outlet La Semana, an unnamed mercenary still on the lam and hiding out in Haiti further elaborated on how he and his comrades had been used as patsies:
“[CTU and Badio] deceived all of us who came from Colombia. We were deceived. We were lured like children with sweets, happy because it was a good job offer and because the pay was good too. They were going to pay us $2,700 then. It was a job offer. We did not come as mercenaries to kill anyone.”
To that last point, an arrest warrant found with the captured Colombians supports their testimony: that they initially believed they were being sent to detain a corrupt leader, not to kill him.
All that allegedly changed shortly before the attack, when Badio allegedly gave Mike new orders:
“He said that we had to kill everyone [...] the police, the president's security, everyone inside the house had to be killed.”
One-time lieutenant Carmona can be heard on the audio saying: “If there was even a pet, we were to kill the pet, there could be no witnesses.”
After allegedly being abandoned by Badio, the mercenaries claimed they loaded the suitcases with cash, security footage, and some official documents into the remaining vehicles and tried to flee the scene. When they encountered a police roadblock, they ditched the cars and took shelter in an abandoned building. Haitian security forces then attacked with tear gas, .50 caliber machine guns, and fragmentation grenades, killing three of the mercenaries.
Cut off from their rendezvous point at the Presidential Palace, the surviving Colombians said they radioed their chief liaison in Haiti, Arcángel Pretel, a fellow Colombian national who was listed as a CTU member. During the day-long firefight, Pretel is said to have repeatedly assured the men that reinforcements were coming to rescue them.
“That help never came because it simply never existed,” Caracol reported. After a 36-hour standoff, all but a few of the Colombians were captured peacefully in the Taiwanese Embassy, where they had gone to seek asylum. They now face multiple life sentences in Haiti’s infamous prison system.
This story has almost too many what-ifs to count. Among them: What would have happened if Mike had simply ordered his men to pack up and go home when Badio altered the plan from detaining the president to killing him? Haiti’s history may have been forever altered with that single choice.
But another major question is this: Just who was supposed to be sworn in that night at the Presidential Palace? Clearly many in Haiti’s political class had knives out for the president. So who were CTU and Badio supposed to have been working with? Who was to be Moïse’s illegitimate successor?
If the Colombians are telling the truth, it turns out there were three candidates. The first was Haitian American physician Emmanuel Sanon, who was arrested early in connection to the operation.
“CTU told [Sanon] that there was the possibility [to satisfy] his aspirations to be president,” said Captain Rivera, aka Mike. Eventually Sanon was ruled out as an heir to the throne because he wasn’t a politician, was unpopular, and “lacked strength,” Mike said.
Next up was a candidate the group referred to as “Diamante” [Diamond]. That was the alias given to Windelle Coq. She had served as a high-ranking federal judge until Moïse himself fired her in February of this year, apparently fearing she was planning his downfall. Diamante held key meetings at her home that were attended by some of the Colombian mercenaries, and she and her allies had also vowed to use their underworld connections to help further the coup.
In the end, her advanced age and entrenched political ties caused the plotters to rule out Diamante just as they had Sanon, according to the mercenary’s testimony. Reuters reports that Coq’s whereabouts are currently unknown and she is considered a fugitive from justice in Haiti.
The man eventually decided on, according to several of the Colombians mercs, is none other than Haiti’s current interim president, Claude Joseph. At the time of the assassination, Joseph was the nation’s prime minister, and thus automatically in line to take over if anything happened to Moïse.
“We had the second in command,” Caracol reports an unidentified mercenary as saying. “Jovenel was dead and the prime minister remained. We didn't even have to make an escape plan because the prime minister was going to protect us. And instead of protecting us, he betrayed and trapped us.”
The same confessor went on to point out that Prime Minister Joseph’s announcements to the press, in the immediate wake of the attack on July 7, in effect served as his own inadvertent admission of guilt.
“After half an hour he had already said that [the assailants] were Colombian, and without any investigation or anything,” he said.
More than a month before the leaked audio tapes were released, Caracol had publicly accused Joseph of being involved in the murder scheme. That report indicated he had been working with CTU and the Colombians to orchestrate the assassination since at least November of 2020.
Joseph himself has downplayed these charges and Hatian National Police Chief Léon Charles has called them “a lie,” though authorities have not provided evidence as to who else might have been behind the killing.
Despite the fact that the leaked audio confessions by the Colombian ex-soldiers were part of Haitian authorities’ own investigation, those same authorities appear to have actively suppressed the portions that were damaging to the interim president, stating: “The clues and information collected as part of the investigation do not reveal any link with the prime minister.”
Former U.S. official Vigil believes this is precisely why someone saw fit to leak the audio confessions of the Colombians abroad, so that their voices, and informed accusations against Joseph, might be heard.
The source of the leak, “definitely had to be a member of the Haitian National Police,” Vigil said. “The audios appear to be tape-recorded confessions of the mercenaries during their interrogations.”
Vigil added that the Haitian Police force is “one of the most corrupt in the hemisphere. They don’t have even the slightest credibility… I firmly believe this was a broad conspiracy by many in the Haitian government. We have not yet seen the very tip of the iceberg.”
The Daily Beast has not independently corroborated reports from La Semana and Caracol. The office of the interim president and CTU did not respond to requests for comment or interviews with The Daily Beast at the time of publication.
“If you consider the fact that Claude Joseph is in office today, it unfortunately appears that the coup against Moïse was successful,” Vigil said.
This story has been updated to remove a purported tweet from former Haitian President Michel Martelly, which appears to be from an impostor account.