Daily Dispatch 2/21/2019: Report on Arrests in Haiti
Over the weekend eight heavily armed men were arrested in Port-au-Prince near a police checkpoint. The men were driving in two vehicles without license plates. Inside the vehicle were multiple automatic rifles, one with a scope, handguns, several drones, satellite phones and other weapons. NPR Reports:
“They said that they were here on a ‘government mission,’ ” Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. “They did not specify which government, but then they did tell the police that … their boss was going to call their boss.”
The implication, Charles says, is that someone high in Haiti’s government would be able to free the heavily armed group — and she adds, “members of the administration of President Jovenel Moise did try to get these gentlemen released from police custody — but that did not work.”
On Tuesday this week it was revealed that one of the vehicles was registered to an advisor of President Moïse. From the Miami Herald:
A letter from a local car dealership to the prime minister revealed that one of the vehicles, the Ford, was purchased by a former government official and sent to the care of Fritz Jean-Louis, an adviser of President Jovenel Moïse. Jean-Louis has since fled the country, police said. Police found license plates inside the vehicles, and at least one was registered to Jean-Louis.
So who are the men? Five of them are U.S. citizens, four of who are known to have military backgrounds. Two are Serbian nationals and one is Haitian:
- Talon Ray Burton, the director of security for Hawkstorm Global Ltd, an international security firm run by Talon Ray Burton’s brother, Lance Burton.
- Kent Leland Kroeker, A 20-year Marine Corp vet who is a member of Kroeker Partners, a security advisory company (The company’s website states that it has no active mission in Haiti.).
- Christopher Mark McKinley, who is a former Navy SEAL, and founder and CEO of INVICTVS Group, which is simply described as a “consortium of U.S. special operations veterans” that delivers “corporate team building services.”
- Christopher Michael Osman, another former Navy SEAL, who has claimed on social media to have been engaged in “classified operations” in the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan.
- Dustin Porte, who operates Patriot Groups Services, listed as an electrical company based in Louisiana. Jacqueline Charles with the Miami Herald notes the company received a recent $16,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security. There is no other known link to military or intelligence services at this point.
- Danilo Bajagic, a Serbian national currently working with K17 Security based in Rockville, MD. The company also claims to have no current operations in Haiti.
- Vlade Jankvic, another Serbian national about whom little is known.
- Michael Estera, a Haitian about whom little is known.
The men were held by police in Haiti until Wednesday, at which point they were flown to the United States, escorted to their plane by U.S. Embassy staff.
Airport employees say the men seemed quite at ease and were taken inside the VIP diplomatic lounge to wait on the flight after their tickets were purchased at the counter. One of the two Serbians initially was not allowed to board the flight by Haitian immigration because he had no stamps showing where he resides. After a few calls were made, he was put on the flight. The Haitian national, Michael Estera, who goes by the pseudonym “Cliford,” was not among those sent back to the U.S. He faces illegal weapons charges.
Below is a brief video clip of some of the arrested men deboarding their flight in Miami:
At this point, no one seems to know what they were doing in Haiti. If they were on an advisory mission with the government, or to there to provide security, it seems that would be an easy question to answer. The silence about their activities, is thus encouraging a great deal of speculation, especially in light of reports of people shot during recent demonstration. Now that they have been flown out of Haiti by the U.S. government we may never know.
UPDATE: It now appears that the none of the men returned to the U.S. will face criminal charges. From the Miami Herald:
The five heavily armed Americans arrested in Haiti earlier this week are back on their home soil and won’t be facing any criminal charges in the United States — a decision already causing outrage among some Haitian leaders.
Federal sources told the Miami Herald that the men will not be charged criminally, but are being debriefed. They told U.S. authorities they were on the island providing private security for a “businessman” doing work with the Haitian government.