Published On: Tue, Aug 12th, 2014

Haitian gang leader on the run after prison breakout

delva_lamotheROIX-DES-BOUQUETS, Haiti - The Haitian government has launched an all-out effort recapture gang leader Clifford Brandt, responsible for many cases of kidnapping in Haiti, who escaped from prison on Sunday, along with other prisoners jailed in the Caribbean country for committing serious crimes.

Brandt, part of one of the richest families in Haiti, was arrested in October 2012 and held since then by court order on charges of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, among other accusations.

Brandt escaped on Sunday from the civil prison of Croix-des-Bouquets, outside the Haitian capital, during a mutiny that broke out in the detention centre, where four police officers and two nurses were taken hostage by angry prisoners, according to a spokesman for the Haitian police, Gary Desrosiers.

The hostages were all freed following a police intervention and no one was killed in these incidents, according to Desrosiers. He said, however, that two people, including a policeman, were injured.

A $22,000 reward is promised to any informant who helps the police to capture Brandt. At least 13 escapees have already been captured by the police.

The spokesman for the police denied reports that the escape took place as a result of an attack on the prison by heavily armed gunmen. Desrosiers said the escape was caused by an act of rebellion by a number of prisoners.

The number of escapees has not yet been officially revealed by prison authorities. Escapees were seen in possession of firearms allegedly stolen from prison guards or provided by other sources.

An (internal) administrative investigation was immediately launched to identify and punish any offenders within the National Police. A criminal investigation was also initiated by relevant judicial authorities.

Haitian prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, who chairs the High Council of the National Police (CSPN), alongside the ministers of justice, Jean Renel Sanon, and interior, Reginald Delva; and police chief, Godson Orélus, were on the scene at Croix-des-Bouquets, where a meeting of the CSPN was urgently held in order to set up a strategy to capture the escapees.

The detention center in Croix-des-Bouquets is supposed to be the most secure in the country, according to experts who suggest that the mutineers would have benefited from the complicity of prison officials.

The CSPN also met on Sunday with representatives of the US Marshals, officials from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica and the mission of peacekeeping operations of the United Nations in Haiti (MINUSTHA), to deal with the possible transnational ramifications of this escape.

"We will spare no effort to find the prisoners on the run and all measures have been taken to support the police in the search for Clifford Brandt and the other escapees," Lamothe told HCNN late on Sunday, as he supervised the search operations along with the ministers of justice and interior, and the chief of police.

"We have made so many efforts to combat crime, and dismantle gangs that have caused so much harm to society and we are not going to throw in the towel," said Lamothe.

Measures have been taken to strengthen controls on the Haitian-Dominican border and public markets in the border zones were suspended to facilitate better control of movements.

By Joseph Guyler Delva

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