Suspected kidnapper arrested in Haiti, opposition senator stopped

May 8, 2014
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By jacqueline charles

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

A Port-au-Prince restaurateur suspected of kidnapping another prominent businessman was arrested by Haitian police Thursday after turning himself into a judge.

Woodly Ethéard, aka Sonson Lafamilia, was transported to a jail in Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb on the outskirts of the capital. He has not yet been charged, said his attorney Claudy Gassant.

But the long-awaited resurfacing of Ethéard, who went underground after authorities launched a nationwide manhunt for his arrest, was quickly eclipsed by another turn of events just south of the capital. Opposition Senator Moise Jean-Charles accused the government of trying to make an illegal arrest after heavily armed and undercover cops stopped his Nissan Patrol in the town of Gressier.

Under Haitian law, elected officials have immunity and their private property cannot be searched. The senator and police spent more than an hour in a standoff as local radio reported the ongoing events, and Jean-Charles gave interviews as backup units arrived. Sources say police had an arrest warrant for one of five passengers traveling with the senator inside the vehicle.

As Jean-Charles was denouncing the traffic stop and Haitian President Michel Martelly’s government, Martelly was making his Haiti investment pitch to a roomful of well-groomed Haitian and Haitian-American businessmen attending an economic forum in Petionville, sponsored by the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the event was to help boost investments in Haiti where political tensions and fragile stability, and a high kidnapping rate in the past, have frightened away potential investors.

Aware of the kidnapping problem, the government last year began cracking down, boasting earlier this year that kidnappings were becoming a thing of the past. And then prominent businessman Sami El Azzi got kidnapped, and one of his captors pointed the finger at Ethéard.

The shocking accusation threw a curve ball at the administration, which in 2013 saw a 53 percent drop in kidnappings compared with 2012.

Ethéard and his wife, Marita Isna Mazil Ethéard are the owners of La Souvenance, a popular, restaurant in tony Petionville. But Haitian authorities also alleged that the well-known businessman also is head of a gang called the Galil that was behind El Azzi’s Feb. 17 kidnapping as he was driving home from work.

According to a report by the National Defense Human Rights Defense Network, six hooded individuals carrying guns and identifying themselves as police forced El Azzi into a Toyota Land Cruiser with government license plates. They later demanded a $1.2 million ransom for his release.

The case has captivated Haitians for months as authorities privately vowed to bring Ethéard in despite his alleged close ties to some in power. While he was in hiding, an investigative judge closed the restaurant and had his wife arrested. But Marita Isna Mazil Ethéard was later released on order of a prosecutor unbeknown to the judge. The prosecutor later resigned amid public outcry.

Gassant, who denied the allegations against his client, said he voluntarily turned himself in because “he has nothing to hide.”

“They keep accusing him of all kinds of things. He is at the disposal of the law to answer questions and we will let a judge decide his fate,” Gassant said.

3 Responses to “ Suspected kidnapper arrested in Haiti, opposition senator stopped ”

  1. JACK PETERS on May 9, 2014 at

    What you see is not what you get, or have.

    Azzi was said to be an associate of Lafamilia and became involved in a dispute over money. The kidnapping may not have been as the humn rights people suggest. Some suggest it was an argument over $1.2 million owed and the entire plot was an attempt by one guy to collect money from another.

    Moise Jean-Charles has certain immunities, under the Constitution. However, if caught in a act, he can be arrested. His trial would then be handled by the Senate.

    As far as his vehicle is concerned, the Constitution does not protect someone in it from arrest under a warrant issued by the government.

    Moise Jean-Charles orchestrated this charade in a blatant effort to generate news coverage, and the Martelly/Lamothe team fell into his net and supplied the material.

    Lafamilia’s arrest was/is a very dangerous move and really opens Pandora’s box. He seems to be tied to Kiko, the First Lady’s brother, and a lot of cocaine cowboys.

    The declaration of war, on drug dealers, is somewhat like the Vatican declaring war on Italy. No real capability to carry out the program since all of the useful elements are tainted with drug cash.

    It is not a simple matter.

    Perhaps the Columbians will finance the destabilization of our government.

    Wait and see.

    There will be a major event.

  2. gerald pierre on May 9, 2014 at

    Sadly, persons like Sonson have not the brain to remain in low profile. Instead, they see Martelly as should be tolerant to their past activities and accept new outrages. Sonson can only damage all of us.

  3. francine michel on May 9, 2014 at

    Woodly Ethéart incarcéré

    Le Nouvelliste | Publié le : 08 mai 2014
    Woodly Ethéart dans un véhicule au milieu de deux agents de la police nationale
    Mercidieu Moranvil

    Vingt-quatre heures après avoir accordé une interview fleuve à Radio Zénith FM sur le dossier de l’enlèvement de l’homme d’affaires Samir El Aziz, Woodly Ethéart, alias Sonson Lafamilia, s’est présenté le jeudi 8 mai 2014 au bureau du juge d’instruction Sonel Jean-Francois, chargé du dossier. Il était accompagné de ses avocats Franck Vanéus et Claudy Gassant, ancien juge d’instruction et ancien commissaire du gouvernement de Port-au-Prince. Pendant qu’il se trouvait au bureau du juge d’instruction, des unités spécialisées de la Police nationale d’Haïti (BLTS), BRI), – basées à la Direction centrale de la police judiciaire – ont pris position dans les couloirs et sur la cour du palais de justice, lesquelles unités ont conduit Woodly Ethéart au centre carcéral de Croix-des-Bouquets. Il s’y est rendu, suite à un mandat de dépôt décerné contre lui, en attendant qu’il soit extrait par le juge pour être entendu sur les faits mis à sa charge. Rappelons que Woodly Ethéart, faisant l’objet d’ un avis de recherche de la Direction centrale de la police judiciaire, a volontairement comparu devant le juge chargé de son dossier quelques semaines après la libération qualifiée de scandaleuse, voire spectaculaire de sa femme arrêtée par le même juge pour blanchiment des avoirs…