ColombiaOne.comCrimeColombian Ex-military Officer Pleads Guilty to Murder of Former Haitian President

Colombian Ex-military Officer Pleads Guilty to Murder of Former Haitian President


Colombian ex-military
Colombian ex-military officer pleads guilty to murder of former Haitian president – Credit: Panama Migration / Office US Ambassador UN / public domain

Colombian ex-military officer, Antonio Palacios Palacios, has pleaded guilty to the murder of former Haitian President Jovenel Moise, who died in his residence in Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2021. Palacios was arrested in Panama in January 2022 by the immigration authorities of that country where he had made a stopover on a flight that took him to Colombia, making the arrest warrant issued by Interpol effective.

Subsequently, the 45-year-old former Colombian sergeant was extradited to the United States, where until now he had pleaded not guilty, but has changed his plea, after reaching a pact with the Prosecutor’s Office to collaborate with justice.

On December 22, 2023, he pleaded guilty before a federal court in Miami, and thus becomes the fifth defendant to plead guilty for the Moise assassination, out of a total of eleven detainees with criminal charges brought by the U.S. justice system.

Palacios had denied during all these months his participation in the crime, but now he has confessed that on the day of the assassination he was with the other mercenaries in the house of President Moise and that he stole money and jewelry. The sentence will be announced on March 1, 2024.

A simple collaborator

According to Palacios’ defense attorney, his client did not play a leading role in the crime of the Haitian president, but was only a simple collaborator. This version, also maintained by the Prosecutor’s Office, suggests that Palacios did not have the authority to make certain decisions.

“The prosecution recognized that he went from Colombia to Haiti and did not intend or plan the assassination of the president (…) At the last moment, they told Mr. Palacios what would happen”, said the defense attorney to the media in Miami.

Likewise, in its argument before the court, the defense has maintained the role of collaborator of the Colombian ex-military. “He didn’t know what he was going to get into. He was not part of the plan (…) He did not recruit anyone. He did not have any authority to make decisions regarding the conspiracy,” Palacios’ defender assures.

However, according to the agreement signed by the parties, and to which the Los Angeles Times had access, Antonio Palacios was informed that the operation was going to end with the death of President Jovenel Moise.

Radical change in the version of events

This statement represents a radical change in the version of the facts, maintained until now by the detainee. Since his first appearance before the US justice system, Palacios denied knowing who was responsible for Moise’s assassination, stating that he was being framed because he was a fugitive from justice.

“As for the assassination of Mr. President, I don’t know who killed him. I say it from my heart for my family, for my children. I do not know who killed him because when I arrived at that room there were already the Yepes and Mr. Romero commandos; he had already died (…). They said “he is dead”, but they did not say if they killed him. Now they are there in jail trying to save their own skin and they are blaming the death on me, a fugitive,” Palacios said initially, as published by Colombia’s Semana magazine.

For now, three of those accused of the crime have been sentenced to life in prison. One of them is former Haitian senator Joseph Joël John, who this week was sentenced to life in prison in a Miami federal court for his participation in the plot, after pleading guilty in October to four criminal charges.

From the Colombian army to mercenaries

Up to 22 Colombian military personnel were involved in the crime. The Colombian Minister of Defense of 2021, Diego Molano, affirmed at the time that the government of which he was a member would offer all the collaboration to clarify the nature of the facts, insofar as it involved Colombian nationals.

“Today, Interpol has officially requested information from the Colombian government and our national police about the alleged perpetrators of this event. Initially, the information indicates that they are Colombian citizens, retired members of the national army. We have given instructions from the national government to our police and the Army to immediately collaborate in the development of this investigation in order to clarify these facts”, said Molano.

What was the operation to assassinate Moise like?

Until today, what has been determined is that the mastermind of the crime was the former Haitian official of the Ministry of Justice, Joseph Badio, who contacted the Colombian Germán Rivera, who was the leader of the group of mercenaries, to initiate the organized operation to kill Jovenel Moise. This is what Rivera himself affirmed, after being arrested. “He said that everyone had to be killed,” Rivera said in his statement.

The mercenaries had an illegal arrest warrant, with which they pretended to justify the kidnapping of the Haitian president. The weapons were supplied by a local mafioso, who was also arrested and prosecuted. The night of the events, the Colombians were divided into four teams of five members each. At one o’clock in the morning, the operation began, accompanied by several Haitians, among them Joseph Badio and four local Port-au-Prince policemen.

The Colombians overcame the three checkpoints, reducing the guards and reaching the presidential residence, where surprisingly the main door of the house was open. Avoiding the shots fired at them from there, they entered the residence, where they met with no resistance from the police inside.

The most experienced group, ex-military personnel who had belonged to the Delta group of the Search Bloc in Colombia, reached the second floor, where President Moise and his wife were. According to statements of some of those involved, the Colombian ex-military officer Victor Pineda was the one who executed the president with an M4 rifle, with 12 shots, in one of the rooms of the house. The president’s wife, who was shot four times in the abdomen, was wounded, but managed to survive the criminal attack.

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