Former Haitian coup leader arrested on drug trafficking charge

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 05, 2017 6:33 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - A Haitian politician and former coup leader wanted for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering in the United States was arrested on Thursday, authorities said, days before he was to take up a Senate seat.

Guy Philippe was arrested on an international warrant for drug trafficking, said Joris Mergelus, head of the country's anti-drug unit.

The arrest of Philippe, who was elected senator from the southwestern Grand Anse region on Nov. 20, came after a radio interview in Petionville, near the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Garry Desrosiers, spokesman for the Haitian national police, said that while agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration did not participate in the operation, they were at the police station where Philippe was taken.

Philippe, who led a coup that drove Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the presidency in 2004, was suspected in 2015 of involvement in an attack on a police headquarters in the southern city of Les Cayes in which at least six people were killed.

Haitian officials issued a warrant for Philippe's arrest over the incident, but his lawyers said it was invalid because he was a candidate.

Philippe would enjoy immunity in some criminal proceedings once in office. He was not scheduled to take his Senate seat until Monday.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva and Makini Brice; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Peter Cooney)