(AP) — Federal prosecutors in the United States have charged the leader of a notoriously violent Haitian gang in connection with the kidnapping of 16 Americans last year, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Germine Joly, 29, who is also known as “Yonyon,” is accused of leading the 400 Mawozo gang and is the first person charged by Justice Department prosecutors with having any involvement in the kidnapping of the Christian missionaries.
He was extradited to the US last week and faces separate firearm trafficking charges, prosecutors said.
The indictment says Joly was in a Haitian prison during the kidnapping but was nonetheless able to direct his group’s operations, including ransom negotiations for the captives’ release.
One of the stated goals of the hostage-taking was to get the Haitian government to release Joly from prison, prosecutors said.
A total of 17 people from the missionary group — 12 adults and five minors — were abducted on October 16 shortly after visiting an orphanage in Ganthier, in the Croix-des-Bouquets area, the group has said. The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian.
Joly is due to make his first court appearance Wednesday. A lawyer who has represented Joly in the firearms trafficking case declined to comment Tuesday night.
“This case shows that the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a US citizen abroad,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“We will utilise the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.”