Eluding Tricks and Raids, Guy Philippe Bargained for a Lighter Sentence, U.S. Says

He Wasn’t Immune or Mistreated, It Adds

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

For eleven
years, the U.S. attempted all manner of ruses, persuasion, negotiations, and
ambushes in an attempt to capture paramilitary leader Guy Philippe after a
Miami grand jury issued a November 2005 indictment against him for drug
trafficking and money laundering. But it was all unsuccessful until he left the
rural, seaside Haitian town where he was holed up and ventured into the

            Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G.
Greenberg enumerated the efforts of Haitian and U.S. authorities to apprehend
Philippe, 49, in a Mar. 10 response to his lawyer’s motions to dismiss the
charges against him because too much time had elapsed between the indictment
and his Jan. 5, 2017 arrest by Haitian police. Philippe, through his attorney
Zeljka Bozanic, also claimed he was unaware that he was being pursued, a
contention the U.S. calls “patently false.”

            Greenberg also refuted Philippe’s
assertion that he enjoys parliamentary immunity and that he was mistreated
after his arrest.

            Interestingly, however, Greenberg
did not contest Philippe’s claim that in April 2006 he visited the U.S. Embassy
in Haiti, where they made no effort to arrest him. Furthermore, the U.S. State
Department has not responded to Haïti
’s inquiries about the veracity of Philippe’s claim.

            In early 2006, the U.S. gave
Philippe “a travel authorization letter” to “lure [him] to the United States,”
but “that travel did not occur,” Greenberg wrote. It is not clear how the
letter was given to Philippe or if it was delivered to him at the U.S. Embassy.

            Greenberg also outlined a “highly
publicized” July 2007 raid on Pestel “involving multiple helicopters,” followed
by another on Mar. 28, 2008. Authorities then laid siege to the area for about
a week, setting up “checkpoints” and offering “payment for information leading
to [Philippe’s] arrest.”

            Another armed raid was attempted on
May 14, 2009, involving a “foot chase” where Philippe “absconded into an area
of dense vegetation.” Another “extensive search” took place around Pestel from
Jun. 26-29, 2009, but again it failed.

            A fourth raid was attempted on Jun.
22, 2015, according to Greenberg, but “agents came upon a roadblock and were
forced to abort the mission.”

            Nonetheless, the pursuit had
apparently rattled Philippe. In August 2007, Philippe’s attorney contacted the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to say he “would surrender… if the United
States agreed in writing that he would serve less than three years in prison
and that the money laundering charges would be dropped,” Greenberg wrote.

            Philippe spoke directly to a DEA
agent on Apr. 9, 2008, asking “how he would depart [Haiti] if he surrendered at
the United States Embassy,” the U.S. Attorney explained. The next day,
Philippe’s wife spoke to the agent, asking about Philippe’s “potential sentence
and location of incarceration if found guilty.” Philippe again spoke to a DEA
agent on Apr. 17, 2008, the U.S. Attorney wrote, saying “he was going to
surrender himself to the United States Embassy as soon as his wife was prepared
to go” and proclaiming “I am a man of my word.” He said he needed “a week or
two,” and then in August 2008 told the DEA “he was ready to surrender in a few
days. He did not.”

            In January and February 2009, there
was another flurry of unfruitful contacts and negotiations between Philippe and
the DEA, according to Greenberg. On May 26, 2009, Philippe even allegedly
contacted an “FBI agent directly” to say that “he was willing to turn himself
in as long as he was treated respectfully.”

            Guy Philippe postured as a defiant
nationalist, a mythic Zorro-like character, but he “personally reached out to
various [U.S.] agents over the course of the last eleven years to discuss his
surrender to the United States,” Greenberg wrote. Philippe never made a deal
because he “wanted to avoid prosecution.”

            The U.S. Attorney also dismissed
Philippe’s claim that he enjoyed parliamentary immunity, saying that the former
police chief and “rebel” leader “misrepresents his status as a Haitian senator”
being merely “a Senator-elect waiting to assume office” and thus “not entitled
to immunity under the Constitution of Haiti.”

            As for Philippe’s claims that one of
his security guards was wounded by two bullets during the arrest, the U.S.
contends that “no injuries were reported by anyone.” Furthermore, contrary to
Philippe’s assertions, he “was not hooded at any time” and “was transported in
an air-conditioned Chevrolet Suburban” for most of the six hours between his
arrest around 4 p.m. and being put on a U.S. plane to Florida around 10 p.m..

            In her Feb. 28 motion, lawyer
Bozanic had claimed that Philippe had been “forced to sit on a very hot floor
of the vehicle as the engine was right underneath him [sic]… without any food
or water.”

            In response, Greenberg said
“Chevrolet Suburbans have the engines at the front of the vehicle, not beneath
the floor,” and that when Philippe said he was hungry, “the defendant was given
water and a granola bar,” saying “he was okay” and “joking around” with U.S.

            The U.S. also completely rejected
Philippe’s claims that he was targeted for death and mistreated with
“outrageous” conduct as “unsubstantiated.”

            Guy Philippe, originally a soldier
in the disbanded Haitian Armed Forces, became a prominent police chief who fled
Haiti after he was discovered to be planning a coup d’état against former
president René Préval in 2000. Based in the Dominican Republic from 2001, he
led a few hundred “rebels” in launching deadly attacks in Haiti for three years
to oust former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the U.S. Embassy, backed
by a Navy SEAL team, forced into exile on Feb. 29, 2004. Philippe ran for
president in 2006, receiving less than 2% of the vote. But he won a Senate seat
in an anemic 2016 election, where less than 20% of the electorate turned out.