Federal prosecutors in the US have charged the leader of a notoriously violent Haitian gang of conspiring to take hostages for his alleged role in the kidnapping of 16 Americans last year.
29-year-old Jolie Germain, also known as “Yonion”, is accused of leading the 400 Mawzo gang and is the first person to be charged in connection with the kidnapping of missionaries. Prosecutors said he was extradited to the US last week and is facing separate charges for smuggling firearms.
US prosecutors say Germain was in a Haitian prison during the kidnapping, but that he “directed and controlled the kidnapping operations of 400 Mawozo gang members, including negotiating a ransom to release the hostages.”
The group said a total of 17 people from the missionary group – 12 adults and five minors – were abducted on October 16, shortly after moving to an orphanage in Gunthier in the Croix-des-Bouquets region. The group consisted of 16 Americans and one Canadian.
Twelve of the captive missionaries escaped during an all-night adventure, dodging their kidnappers and walking miles along the rough, moonlit terrain with an infant and other children. The group navigated by stars to reach security after two months of abduction, according to officials at Christian Aid Ministries, an Ohio-based agency that works for missionaries.
His exiles from the 400 Mawzo gang initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. Five other prisoners had reached independence earlier. It is still unclear whether the ransom was paid. The 12 hostages who survived were taken to Florida by a US Coast Guard flight, and later reunited with the five hostages who had previously been released.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “This case shows that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a US citizen abroad.” “We will use the full reach of our law enforcement officers to hold anyone responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.”
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