Federal prosecutors in the United States have charged the leader of a notoriously violent Haitian gang with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking for his alleged role in the kidnapping of 16 Americans last year.
Joly Germaine, 29, also known as “Yonyon”, is accused of leading the 400 Mawozo gang and is the first person charged in the United States in connection with the kidnapping of the missionaries last fall. He was extradited to the United States last week and faces separate charges in a firearms trafficking case, prosecutors said.
U.S. prosecutors say Germaine was in a Haitian jail during the kidnapping, but that she “directed and asserted control of the kidnapping operations of 400 members of the Mawozo gang, including negotiating a ransom for the release of the hostages”. One of the stated purposes of the hostage-taking was to get the Haitian government to release Germaine 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 district, the group said. The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian.
Twelve of the captive missionaries escaped on a daring nighttime adventure, escaping their captors and walking for miles through difficult, moonlit terrain with a baby and other children in tow. The group sailed by stars to safety after a two-month abduction ordeal, according to officials with Christian Aid Ministries, the Ohio-based agency for which the missionaries work.
Court appearance on Wednesday
Their captors from the 400 Mawozo gang initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. Five other captives had previously attained freedom. It is still not known if a ransom was paid. The 12 hostages who escaped were airlifted to Florida on a US Coast Guard flight and then reunited with the five hostages who had been freed earlier.
Germine is due to make her first court appearance on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney to comment on his behalf.
“This case shows that the Justice Department will be relentless in its efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a U.S. citizen overseas,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “We will use the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible for endangering the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.”