Could the traveling pastor with a history of humanitarian work also have masterminded an intricate murder plot to seize power in Haiti?
Christian Emmanuel Sanon, the latest American citizen to be arrested in connection to the assassination of Haiti’s President, has been accused by authorities of orchestrating a complex multinational hit job in order to realize his own political ambitions.
“He came with the intention to take over as President of the Republic,” Haitian National Police Director General Leon Charles said of Sanon in a press conference on Sunday. He was also the first person one of the alleged men involved in the killing of President Jovenel Moise called after the attack, Charles said.
But Sanon has insisted on his innocence, according to a source close to the investigation who cannot be named because they are not authorized to discuss the affair.
The 63-year-old was arrested over the weekend during a police raid in an otherwise peaceful hilltop neighborhood in the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the source. The houses there are large and gated, and just a stone’s throw away from the residence of acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who currently leads the country.
Inside a sprawling complex whose doors read “International Medical Village,” police found boxes of ammunition and holsters for rifles and pistols, CNN’s source said. According to a police statement, they also found 24 unused shooting targets, a cap labeled “DEA,” and four Dominican Republic license plates. Judicial notices affixed to the property warn that it is now a sealed site amid the ongoing investigation.
Sanon told police that he had no knowledge of the attack on the President and that he hadn’t known the weaponry and other seized materials were in the building, according to the source. He also told police that he was a Christian pastor, and emphasized that the building was neither his home nor his property, the source said.
Police have accused Sanon of recruiting the men who allegedly killed the President. One person who works nearby said they had noticed an uptick in activity during the past month, describing foreigners who were “muscular like bodyguards, wearing camouflage pants” frequently walking back and forth between the apparent medical complex and a house across the street.
But when asked about the 26 Colombians and two other Haitian-Americans who are suspects in the investigation, Sanon emphasized that “he doesn’t know anything at all,” according to the source. “He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. This is what he said since the day authorities interviewed him.”
Police have not announced any formal charges against Sanon, and it is not yet clear if Sanon has retained legal representation to address the charges. CNN was not able to reach him for comment.
‘Dr. Christian Sanon: Leadership for Haiti’
According to police, Sanon was born in the seaside Haitian village of Marigot, and returned to the Caribbean country in June, on a private plane accompanied by hired guards.
Though little is known about Sanon in the years preceding his arrest, publicly available information indicates he was involved in a range of charitable initiatives.
In the early 2000s, Sanon helped to run medical clinics in Haiti for the Rome Foundation, a now-shuttered Florida-based non-profit that once carried out humanitarian work abroad.
“Dr. Sanon offers not only medicine for the body but also medicine for the soul. Unwavering, Dr. Sanon gives the good news of Jesus Christ to those who are searching for real answers in a Satan-controlled country,” reads a 2004 “leadership profile” posted on an archived version of the Rome Foundation’s website.
Larry Chadwell, the former president of the organization, told CNN in a brief interview that Sanon went to medical school in the Dominican Republic and was licensed to practice in Haiti but not the United States. A biography of Sanon posted by the Florida Baptist Historical Society says he graduated from the University Eugenio Maria de Hostos in the Dominican Republican.