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A chance encounter leads to the arrest of a fugitive involved in the assassination of the president.

On a recent weekday, a senior Haitian police officer was shopping at a local supermarket when someone caught his eye: the country’s most wanted man.

The officer, Ernst Dorfeuille, immediately recognized Joseph Félix Badio, a former military officer who had been in charge of narcotics at the Ministry of the Interior and Justice and corruption cases because he had worked with him.

Mr. Badiou is now a fugitive and police have issued a warrant for his arrest seeking information on his key role in the notorious crime assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July 2021. Role.

Daupouye called for help, and minutes later four police officers armed with assault rifles arrived and detained Badio as he drove away from a supermarket on the outskirts of Haiti’s capital.

Daupouille confirmed to The Times details of Badiou’s arrest that had appeared in Haitian news media but declined a broader interview.

Badiou is accused by some involved in the assassination plot of ordering Moise’s assassination, but how Badiou was able to evade Haitian authorities for more than two years remains unclear.

According to police, the vehicle Badio was driving when he was detained was in the name of a Justice Department employee.

His arrest has delighted and shocked many Haitians, who have grown cynical in a country where corruption and impunity are endemic.

Pierre Espérance, executive director of a major Haitian human rights group, said Mr. Badiou’s seemingly accidental arrest raised questions about how closely he was wanted.

“He was untouchable because he knew too much,” Mr. Esperance said.

Moise was shot to death in his bedroom in the early morning hours of July 7, 2021, and police said a team of 20 former Colombian soldiers hired by a Miami-area security company raided his official residence.

Two parallel investigations into the assassination are ongoing in Haiti and South Florida. Dozens of people have been imprisoned in Haiti, but no one has been charged so far.

In Miami, 11 people were indicted in federal court in February for their role in the conspiracy. Three of them were found guilty, including a Colombian, Germán Rivera, who was sentenced to life in prison last month. All three were charged with conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping. Killing a person outside the United States.

Mr. Badiou, who was described in a detailed Haitian police report as the “orchestra leader” of the plot, has not been charged in connection with the assassination. In Haiti, official charges tend to come much later in the legal process.

Haitian police said Badiou rented two cars to transport the president’s killers and rented a house on the same street as Moise’s residence to conduct surveillance.

After his arrest, Mr. Badiou briefly appeared in court before being transferred to Haiti’s main prison. Mr Badio’s lawyer, Jonas Mezirus, said he did not know how to defend his client because he had not yet been formally charged.

A year ago, Badiou issued an audio statement to a Haitian news outlet proclaiming his innocence, saying he had been made a “scapegoat” for Moise’s assassination and that he was willing to talk to authorities, including the FBI.

“I’m free today,” he said. “I’m a slave to the law.”

U.S. court documents filed as part of an indictment in South Florida name an unnamed “co-conspirator” who conveyed orders to assassinate the president.

Lawyers for some of the defendants charged in South Florida believe that Mr. Badiou is a co-conspirator and that he may eventually face legal charges in the United States. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Badiou’s identity.

Given that Badiou was never questioned in Moise’s killing, legal experts say he could provide important answers in a case that remains shrouded in mystery.

U.S. prosecutors argued that the boss of the Miami-area security firm Counterterrorism Unit planned and financed the assassination in an attempt to profit from lucrative contracts under the new administration. But they left unanswered questions about whether there were other plotters in Haiti. and what role they might play in the plot.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry praised Mr. Badiou’s arrest. “This is an important step forward in the investigation,” he said in a statement.

But Mr Henry himself has been linked to the assassination by Haitian authorities, who say phone records show Mr. Badiou calls Mr. Henry This happened several times in the days before Mr Moïse was killed and in the hours after.

Last year, when a judge in the case asked Mr. Henry to answer questions about his relationship with Mr. Badiou, he was fired by the justice minister and fled the country. At the time, the judge wrote that there were “sufficient compromising factors” for the offender, Mr Henry.

Mr Henry denied any involvement. In response to questions posed by this article, he intervened to say that Mr. Henry received a number of phone calls on the day Mr. Moise was killed, “but none of them were to Mr. Badiou.”

Badiou is a former Haitian Army officer who worked in strategic communications before entering the civil service. The Times contacted more than a dozen former and current officials who have worked with him, but none wanted to speak on the record.

Mr. Badiou’s father moved to New York in the early 1960s, according to a person who worked with Mr. Badiou in the Haitian government. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety speaking publicly about Mr. Badiou.

The young Mr. Badiou lived briefly in New York and attended Medgar Evers College, part of the City University of New York system. According to his Facebook pageThe college confirmed that a man named Joseph Félix Badio studied there from 1992 to 1993, but there is no record of his graduation.

He later bought a four-bedroom house in a residential neighborhood in Rockland County, north of New York City, where his wife and two children still live, according to property and phone records. A New York Times reporter visited the house, but no one answered the door.

People who worked with him said Mr. Badiou was fascinated by guns and all things related to security and intelligence. He also appeared to resent those in power who failed to fully recognize his talents, according to several people who have worked with and around him. Follow his career.

Jake Johnston, a Haiti expert at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington who has studied Badio’s record, said: “Badio is very well-connected not only in the political realm but also in the security realm.”

“He was also the guy that these guys relied on to get things done,” Johnston said of Badiou’s superiors in the Haitian government. “He had a reputation for always getting things done.”

Esperance, the rights group’s director, said he had met Mr. Badiou once a decade ago. He recalled that Mr. Badiou “talked about his relationships with U.S. agencies, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, but you never knew what was true.”

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department confirmed that Mr. Badiou attended an anti-gang conference in the United States in 2009.

Two months before Moise’s assassination, Badiou was fired from the Justice Department’s anti-corruption unit for accepting $30,000 from a man in prison charged with murdering the owner of a prominent local radio station, according to a letter. Mr. Badiou’s boss at the ministry, and a press release from the ministry.

The transcripts showing Badiou’s involvement in the conspiracy were part of prosecutorial evidence in the South Florida case and were reviewed by The Times.

In an audio message to Haitian news media, Badiou denounced unnamed members of the Haitian government who he claimed were also involved in the assassination plot.

“If you think you can get away with executing me,” he said, “then you’re knocking on the wrong door.”

Camille Baker and Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed reporting from Rockland County, New York.

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