Jacmel Businessman Claims Joseph Lambert, a Presidential Advisor, Tried to Have Him Killed

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Jean Rony
Philippe, a 44-year-old businessman and political activist from Haiti’s
southeastern city of Jacmel, was driving home from Port-au-Prince on Apr. 3,
2014 when he was ambushed, robbed, shot, and left for dead by a eight heavily
armed men. The crime, he believes, was ordered by former Sen. Joseph Lambert,
who is today one of President Michel Martelly’s closest advisors.
            “My family and I have become a
problem for [Joseph ] Lambert,” Mr. Philippe said in a long interview with Haïti Liberté, in which he detailed the
ambush and his long history of “political rivalry” with Mr. Lambert. “We are
preventing him from controlling the [Southeast] department in its entirety, and
I have been working hard to keep him from reigning as lord and master there.
That is his problem with me.”
            Despite much talk, especially in the
Southeast department, that he was behind the attempted assassination, Mr.
Lambert has offered no comment on the attack, nor have his political allies,
Sen. Edwin “Edo” Zenny and Sen. Wenceslas Lambert, his brother.
            Mr. Philippe’s charges come as
restauranteur Woodly “Sonson Lafamilia” Ethéard, another close Martelly associate,
turned himself into the Haitian police on May 8 on charges of involvement in a
kidnapping ring known as the “Galil Gang.” Mr. Ethéard, who was on the run and
in headlines for the past two months, is currently being held in a
Croix-de-Bouquets jail alongside Clifford Brandt, another close Martelly
associate who was arrested two years ago for heading another kidnapping ring
but who has never been brought to trial.
            Trained in Haitian universities as
an agronomist, Mr. Philippe owns a supermarket and an electronics store in
Jacmel and is the assistant treasurer of the Southeast department’s Chamber of
Commerce. He is also a political activist in the grassroots Organization of 22
(OG-22), which is close to the Lavalas Family party, and was the vice president
of the Southeast’s Departmental Election Office (BED) for the 2009 Senate
elections and the first round of the 2010 Presidential elections.
            Well-regarded in Jacmel, Mr.
Philippe is local success story, having been born a peasant in nearby Belle
Anse, where his family is still influential.
            As he drove home from the capital on
the day of the attack, Mr. Philippe noticed a grey Toyota Rav4 SUV following
him. Just before he reached the Port-au-Prince suburb of Mariani, the Rav4
blocked him. Almost immediately his car was surrounded “by eight men, all armed
with brand-new 9mm guns.”
            After shooting him once, the
assailants took 40,000 gourdes (US$886), his phone, two rings, and a bracelet,
but he was still negotiating for his life.
            “At last I realized that they wanted
to kill me no matter what,” Mr. Philippe said. “Still very calmly, I told them,
‘if you want other things, just ask me. But let me live! Here is the key to my
car. Take it with everything in it.’”
            The men mocked him and shot him
again. “I was hit by many bullets and finally, I fell down on the car seat,
pretending to be dead,” the victim said.
            After the men fled the scene, Mr.
Philippe, bleeding profusely, drove himself to a nearby Haitian police station,
and the police took him to the nearby hospital of Doctors Without Borders. He
was transferred to and operated on at the Canapé Vert hospital. He then
traveled to Brooklyn, NY where he underwent more surgery at Kings County
Hospital. He is now recuperating in New York City.
            Joseph Lambert has long been accused
and suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and other criminal activities
in the Jacmel region.
            In a May 12, 2006 secret diplomatic
cable provided to Haïti Liberté by
WikiLeaks in 2011, then U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that Mr.
Lambert was reported to be one “of the best-known narco-traffickers in
[Jacmel], distributing money for favors and engaging in vote buying… SIMO
[U.S. Army’s Systems Integration and Management Office] and DEA [Drug
Enforcement Agency] Port-au-Prince report that information on file reflects
that he is suspected of association with known drug traffickers in Jacmel.”
            In another secret Aug. 2, 2006
cable, Ms. Sanderson reported that Edmund Mulet, then the head of the UN
Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), complained that “drug trafficking has
become an increasingly alarming problem, which is difficult to combat, in part
because of the drug
ties within the
Haitian Government. In this connection, he mentioned Senate leader Joseph
Lambert and Security Commission Chair Youri Latortue,” another former senator
who is today another close Martelly advisor.
            In 2013, a young Jacmel man,
Sherlson Sanon, claimed to have worked for Mr. Lambert as a hired gunman for
over 10 years and to have been instructed by him to kill Deputies Sorel
Jacinthe and Levaillant Louis-Jeune. In his confession to police, Mr. Sanon
claimed to have engaged in drug trafficking and murder for Mr. Lambert as well
as Sen. Zenny.
            Asked by Haïti Liberté what he knew about Mr. Sanon’s charges, Mr. Philippe
replied that he had “no elements to verify” the accusations but said that “one
day the Haitian judicial system has to free itself from the claws of Joseph
Lambert and of the government he belongs to if we want to shed light on certain
cases in which he is implicated.”
            This may be difficult because,
according to Mr. Philippe, “in Jacmel, for example, Lambert named the state
prosecutor, the justice of the peace (juge de paix), and the investigating
judge also. The local chief justice (doyen) is under his control. If Lambert
controls the justice system to this extent, who is going to arrest him, even if
he is accused or found guilty of whatever? He will be declared not guilty, and
that’s it.”
            Mr. Philippe explained he had once
reluctantly visited Mr. Lambert, on his invitation, because his brother had
been falsely arrested. One phone call from Mr. Lambert to the local judge
resulted in his brother’s immediate release from jail, he said.

            “We need another governance, another
Haiti,” Mr. Philippe concluded. “We need men and women who choose to go to
universities to learn and to create jobs in the country, not choose to become
criminals, kidnappers, or drug traffickers.”