May 25th, 2024

‘Exceptional’: Diplomat and RCMP praised sanctioned Haitian, emails suggest

By Darryl Greer and Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press on May 9, 2024.

Residents walk past a burnt car blocking the street as they evacuate the Delmas 22 neighborhood to escape gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, May 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Ramon Espinosa

A Canadian diplomat and an RCMP officer heaped praise and gratitude on a sanctioned Haitian businessman that Global Affairs accuses of gangland connections, after he allowed a helicopter airlift of Canadian citizens and police at his luxury golf course last month, emails provided by his lawyers suggest.

Emails attributed to consul Catherine Brazeau show her telling businessman Reynold Deeb in French that his assistance was “exceptional,” and giving him “a big thank you “¦ on behalf of the entire embassy team.”

The emails also suggest Deeb, whose activities Global Affairs says protect and enable “armed criminal gangs,” was provided with trip plans and passenger lists for helicopter flights carrying Haitian National Police officers to and from his Petionville Club, a golf course in Port-au-Prince.

“I don’t know how to thank you, director” a person described as an RCMP liaison officer writes to Deeb in French after the flights. “Everything went well despite the challenges we faced.”

Canadian lawyers for Deeb, an executive at a dominant Haitian import firm, say the emails will be used as evidence in a Federal Court challenge of Deeb’s inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list. Deeb is one of 28 people sanctioned under Canada’s Special Economic Measures (Haiti) Regulations.

“Why the Government of Canada was simultaneously asking Mr. Deeb for use of his property and maintaining sanctions against him is not clear,” his judicial review application says.

One of Deeb’s lawyers, Geoff Hall, said the “quite remarkable” emails show Canadian officials were thankful and “complimentary” toward their client for allowing the use of his property, “which is actually contrary to sanctions law for Canadians to be using property of those who are sanctioned.”

Global Affairs did not immediately provide a response to questions about the emails.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said sanctions under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “are not worth the paper they are printed on when he refuses to uphold them,” and it was “no surprise that his government sought assistance from an individual in Haiti under Canadian sanction.”

Deeb calls his inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list “erroneous,” and says those who find themselves sanctioned suffer “severe reputational damage,” their travel is restricted and they’re denied financial services and employment opportunities.

He has not been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union or the United Kingdom.

But he was sanctioned by Canada “in response to the egregious conduct of Haitian elites who provide illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced on Dec. 5, 2022.

“Canada has reason to believe these individuals are using their status as high-profile members of the economic elite in Haiti to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption,” Global Affairs Canada said in a news release at the time.

“The sanctions Canada has imposed are intended to put pressure on those responsible for the ongoing violence and instability in Haiti. These people must stop providing funds and weapons to criminal gangs in Haiti.”

Deeb denies being tied to gangs. He says in an application filed in Federal Court last month that the minister denied his bid to have the sanctions lifted on March 21 this year, the same day Brazeaufirst contacted him about the evacuation flights.

“The Canadian Embassy would like to request the assistance of your organization, The Petion Ville Club S.A., to facilitate a departure assistance project for some of our Canadian citizens here in Port-au-Prince,” an email to Deeb, attributed to Brazeau, says.

The email says the embassy was trying to organize “a few helicopter flights” for Canadians “in need of urgent consular support.”

“This is not for evacuation purposes, but rather to provide an option for Canadians who have urgent and priority support needs and need to leave the country.”

The email to Deeb asks if the golf course would grant access for “helicopter landings and departures.”

“If possible, we would like to start providing this departure assistance to Canadians as early as this weekend,” it says.

Deeb replied to Brazeau the next day. “I will be pleased to collaborate with the embassy to ensure the necessary arrangements for the successful execution of this operation to evacuate your fellow citizens,” Deeb’s email says writes.

Global Affairs Canada said on April 26 it had helped close to 700 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and relatives leave the country.

On April 12, Deeb wrote to Brazeau about the completion of the helicopter operations.

“We have diligently done our best in order for this delicate and dangerous operation to be a total success. I remain at your disposal in case there is a need to resume flights,” Deeb wrote.

The reply came the next day. “Your team has been exceptional, and we thank you once again for all the support provided to the embassy. We have completed our operations so far, though we don’t know what the future holds in the coming days or weeks,” Brazeau said. “Thank you very much again, and let’s stay in touch for any further developments.”

The emails also depict correspondence between Deeb and an RCMP liaison officer in early April, seeking use of the golf course for flights carrying members of the Haitian National Police “listed on the attached manifest.”

Deeb’s emails show he allowed the flights to occur. “I hope you are well, and that everything went smoothly with the helicopter transport of members of the Haitian National Police from Petion-Ville Club to Cap-Haitien for their training,” Deeb writes. “I am at your disposal for any other requests you may have in the future.”

The RCMP officer thanked Deeb for his help.

The officer is not named by The Canadian Press because his role in Haiti is not publicly identified. He declined to comment about the emails.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

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