On Oct. 22, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrested Clifford Brandt, the scion of a prominent Haitian bourgeois family, on charges of leading a kidnapping ring which includes other wealthy Haitians as well as policemen and former policemen. The ring allegedly kidnapped Coralie and Nicolas Moscoso, aged 23 and 24 respectively, the children of another bourgeois family, for a ransom of $2.5 million. Brandt led the police to the two bound and blindfolded abductees in a house in the Pernier section of the capital. The Moscoso kids were then freed.
Haitians welcomed the news of Brandt’s arrest as vindication that poor Haitians are not behind the country’s frequent kidnappings, as the media and officialdom often state or intimate. Brandt’s ring suggests the culprits are more likely rich and powerful Haitians.
Last week, Haïti Liberté published a cover picture of Clifford Brandt, sharply dressed in a white shirt and blue blazer, staring at his handcuffs. The issue sold out within a day in more than one location.
It is now reported that Brandt, who owned and ran a struggling car dealership in Delmas 2, has given Haitian authorities the names of over 20 Haitian police officers who were a part of his kidnapping ring.
Haïti Liberté asked the PNH’s Director General Godson Orélus about police involvement in Haiti’s kidnappings in an interview in September (see the first installment of the interview in this week’s Kreyòl section). “I can tell you there are false policemen,” Orélus responded. “It is a tactic they use. They pretend to be policemen, but they are not policemen.”
Orélus did admit, however, that sometimes “when we investigate, we find there is complicity” with Haitian policemen. “But when we find a case of that, there is zero tolerance because we don’t permit that in the police,” Orélus added. “We have a program to continue removing the bad seeds [from the police], because there is no family without bad seeds.”
Among the policemen now being held as accomplices of Brandt are Thébée “Febe” Marc-Arthur, the commander of the Presidential Security’s CAT (anti-ambush) Team, Jacques Darly, an officer with the PNH’s Criminal Affairs Brigade, and Frantz Aristil, Chief of the Port-au-Prince police station.
“There is a former police inspector, Edner Comé, who is presently being sought,” said Reginald Delva, the state secretary for Public Security. “I allow myself to give his name because he is an extremely dangerous individual.”
Authorities have sealed four houses and seized two vehicles, 13 firearms (including six automatic weapons), and a large quantity of ammunition and police supplies. They also have arrested nine people, put four police officers in isolation, and are pursuing many other suspects.
“We don’t tolerate it,” Orélus added. “When we find an officer involved in those activities, we arrest him the same as we arrest the bandits, and we put them all in the same jail.”
However, Director Orélus may also have been working under the assumption that the kidnappers were from the poorer classes rather than the richer. “If the population does not trust you,” Orélus told Haïti Liberté in September, “you will not get any information” on kidnappers because “the kidnappers live in the midst of the population, among the people.”
The arrest of the Brandt ring seems to belie this notion of kidnappers living “among the people.” Haiti’s bourgeoisie lives in splendid walled mansions built in the cool mountains heights above the capital city of Port-au-Prince. They generally do not mix with or live among the other 99% of the Haitian people.