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SURPRISE CATCH!

As deportation loomed, Haiti assassination suspect was under average security

Published:Friday | October 22, 2021 | 12:10 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios
Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios

Plans for the deportation of Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, one of the key suspects behind the July 7 assassination of then Haitian President Jovenel Moise, were in train when they were serendipitously scuttled when the high-profile target in one...

Plans for the deportation of Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, one of the key suspects behind the July 7 assassination of then Haitian President Jovenel Moise, were in train when they were serendipitously scuttled when the high-profile target in one of the hemisphere’s most notorious modern murders was red-flagged, sources say.

Palacios, a former Colombian military officer who was initially arrested for illegal entry, was detained on Monday, October 11, and may have escaped a global dragnet had the red notice issued by Interpol come days later.

The Colombian had his day in the Jamaican court on October 15 and was reportedly fined $8,000 or five days’ imprisonment.

Gleaner sources also confirmed that Palacios was being held at a lock-up in the hills of the St Andrew North Police Division.

The Haitian National Police reported that Palacios left Colombia for the Dominican Republic on Friday, June 4, via El Dorado airport.

He was on the same Avianca flight with other members of the suspected assassination commandos.

Further reports are that Palacios arrived at Punta Cana International Airport at 6:10 p.m., and his departure for Haiti by car was registered on June 6 at the Carrizal border post.

Policemen at the Lawrence Tavern lock-up were surprised to learn that the suspect had been in their midst for days, under standard security oversight, though being listed by Haitian authorities as “very dangerous” and with the public warned to be careful.

“He has been here, and we expected that he would have left our custody a day earlier, but lo and behold, we heard via news reports today that the main suspect in the assassination of the Haitian president was, in fact, him,” a policeman told The Gleaner on Thursday.

The cop’s identity could not be disclosed because he is not authorised to speak on the high-level security matter.

Reports are that even up to Thursday, a representative of the Colombian Embassy made calls to the Lawrence Tavern Police Station, requesting information.

In the aftermath of the July 7 assassination, Haitian police arrested 20 persons, including 18 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, suspected of being among the 28 commandos who stormed Moise’s private residence in the hills overlooking Port-au-Prince.

Three were reportedly killed, while five, including Palacios, were on the run.

It is believed that he entered Jamaica through one of the island’s more than 140 informal ports of entry.

It has not been ascertained if any of the other commandos arrived in Jamaica with Palacios.

“We don’t know how he got here, but it wasn’t through the formal system,” said the source, who did not want to be named because details of the arrest are being guarded closely.

According to one source, he was arrested without incident at a guest house in central Jamaica.

While not naming Palacios, the Jamaica Constabulary Force issued a statement Thursday afternoon acknowledging that “an individual alleging to be a Colombian national has been arrested in Jamaica on immigration breaches”.

“He has subsequently become the subject of an Interpol Red Notice as of today, October 21, 2021. We are working with our international partners in line with our established treaties and protocols,” the statement read.

A red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

Palacios was taken to the Lawrence Tavern Police Station because it is one of a number of gazetted COVID-19 constabulary centres for the quarantining of new prisoners, The Gleaner understands.

The Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch is understood to have been involved in the arrest.

Palacios was whisked away to an undisclosed location late Thursday afternoon, a source told The Gleaner.

Thursday’s transportation under the watchful eye of a party of 10 was a whirlwind change to when he was transported to the Corporate Area Parish Court, police and court staff informed this newspaper.

Several calls made Thursday to Deputy Commissioner Fitz Bailey, who heads the crime portfolio, and Assistant Commissioner Anthony McLaughlin of C-TOC went unanswered.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com