Customs agents in Port-au-Prince have seized four containers labeled relief supplies consigned to the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti that contained weapons and contraband.
On 13 July 2022 agents from Haiti’s Office for the Fight against Narcotics Trafficking (BLTS) accompanied by customs officers conducted a random search of a container consigned to the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.
Officers discovered 18 Russian AK-47 rifles, an M4 carbine and an Israeli Galil assault rifle, along with a shotgun, four pistols, 20,000 rounds of ammunition and $50,000 in counterfeit American currency. The other three containers also contained weapons and contraband items.
The diocese of Haiti released a statement the next day denying any connection with the shipment, stating criminals appeared to have forged bills of lading and other shipping documents with the diocese’s name to smuggle the guns into the country. The statement read:
“The Episcopal Church of Haiti denounces the unfounded rumors associating it with the importation of illegal weapons into the country and renews its faith in the pursuit of its spiritual and moralizing work in the country
“The Episcopal Church of Haiti is saddened to learn, through rumors, that its name is associated with the duty-free import of containers containing illegal weapons and ammunition at Port-au-Prince customs.
“The Episcopal Church of Haiti has no orders for containers and has not undertaken any container clearance procedures at Port-au-Prince customs and is not awaiting the arrival of any products from the foreigner for any of its diocesan institutions.
“The Episcopal Church of Haiti, for the edification of all, believes it necessary to point out here the procedure established with the Haitian State for the duty-free customs clearance of products intended for its diocesan institutions:
“1-the diocese receives a note from the shipping agency announcing that a container is being shipped in its name.
“2- Recovery of these documents by a broker authorized by the diocese after payment of the related costs.
“In the absence of the diocesan bishop, only the president of the permanent committee is currently authorized to request a tax exemption for the diocese. What he didn’t do. If therefore individuals present themselves at customs to recover containers in the name of the Episcopal Church, it can only be false documents used by criminal networks.
“The Episcopal Church therefore enjoins justice to undertake everything to identify, seek out the counterfeiters and submit them to repressive justice so that they answer for their crimes. It pledges its full cooperation to the authorities constituted for this purpose.
“The Episcopal Church of Haiti, in accordance with the convention binding it to the Haitian State, renews its determination to continue its spiritual and moralizing work in the fields of education and health, arts and economic, social and cultural development of the Haitian population.
“Port-au-Prince, July 14, 2022.”
Haitian police investigating gun-running earlier this month arrested a state prosecutor and prominent attorney for arms trafficking. Haiti’s criminal gangs have been importing weapons to support their attacks on rivals. A recent turf battle in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil left 209 dead and 260 injured dead or injured between 8-17 July 2022.