May 10 (UPI) — The United States on Tuesday indicted a man accused of being the leader of a notorious Haitian gang with charges connected to the kidnapping of 17 missionaries in October.
Joly “Yonyon” Germine, 29, is accused of being the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, which was behind the kidnapping of one Canadian and 16 U.S. missionaries near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
According to the court document, Germine was in prison at the time of the kidnapping plot but directed and asserted control over his gang from behind bars.
Prosecutors said the 400 Mawozo sought to secure Germine’s release from the Haitian government during the kidnapping negotiations.
“This indictment is a step towards achieving justice for the victims who were volunteering their services in Haiti when they were kidnapped and held for weeks on end,” U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the district of Columbia said in a statement.
The missionaries with the Christian Aid Ministries had completed building an orphanage in the area when they were abducted, which led to the majority of them being held by the gang for 61 days.
In mid-November, the Ohio-based Christian missionary group announced the gang had released two hostages with three more released in early December. About 10 days later, the remaining 12 managed to escape to safety. Among the hostages were five children, including a 10-month-old.
The indictment was announced days after Germine was charged along with two other Haitian nationals and a U.S. citizen in a U.S. court for attempting to acquire weapons and ammunition in the states and have it sent to Haiti in violation of U.S. export laws.
Germine, who had been jailed in Haiti since 2018, was transferred to U.S. custody May 3 and will make his initial court appearance in the kidnapping case Wednesday.