Now he’s on the outside looking in — and it’s an ugly view. “The Haitian nation is living the worst political crisis of its history,” Vincent told CNN.
As Haiti’s justice minister, he oversaw the sprawling presidential murder investigation, which has implicated a Haitian-American pastor, dozens of Colombian hired soldiers, and members of Haiti’s own police force.
That week, both Claude and Vincent were abruptly fired.
Speaking from an undisclosed location on Friday, Vincent — who says he has gone into hiding since his firing — told CNN he thought it should have been the other way around.
“In all serious countries, once you are implicated in such an affair, the Prime Minister should offer his resignation. He should resign. And we are still waiting for him to resign. Because on the night of the president’s death, a few hours later … he had phone conversations with the president’s assassin,” Vincent said.
Vincent accuses the Prime Minister of trying to “cover his tracks” with the firings.
“When you fire the prosecutor and the justice minister and you place in his position someone who knows nothing about justice … what exactly are you trying to do?” he said.
Henry denies having anything to do with the killing. Speaking to CNN last week, he said he had “no recollection” of a phone call “or if it took place.”
‘The republic will be crushed’
Henry assumed the premiership with international backing a few weeks after Moise’s death, after a brief standoff with the previous Prime Minister. In the absence of a president, he will now lead Haiti until its long-overdue elections — which have been postponed again, until sometime next year.
The Prime Minister has often described solving the murder case as a personal mission. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No political maneuver, no media campaign, no distraction can deter me from this goal to bring justice for President Moise,” Henry told world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly last week.
According to Henry’s office, both Vincent and Claude were fired for breaking the law, which forbids prosecuting top officials without permission from the head of state — currently Henry himself.
But Vincent says he was sacked for refusing to fire Claude, which he describes as an ethically impossible demand given the ongoing investigation. “I told [Henry], ‘This is not possible. We are going to have problems. The republic will be crushed if you dismiss the public prosecutor,” Vincent said.
Quitel, an engineer by training, was also given Vincent’s job — and is now doing double-duty as head of both Haiti’s interior and justice ministries.
Speaking to CNN this weekend, Quitel dismissed the phone calls in question as insufficient for a warrant against the Prime Minister, and noted that the investigation under Vincent’s leadership had led to no clear answers.
“I don’t see what would be the motive to ask the Prime Minister to appear before a judge, just because he had a phone call,” he said.
“This is obviously something that’s politically motivated,” he said — a claim Vincent rejects.
A troubled investigation
In July, sources close to the case told CNN they were troubled by the fact that Justice Ministry staffers had not been given immediate access to crime scenes and key evidence, including surveillance footage from inside and around the president’s mansion during the attack.
Clerks involved in the case also received death threats, forcing some to flee the capital.
At the time, Vincent did not respond to requests for comment. Now, however, he defends his oversight of the months-long probe, insisting investigators were free to work as they needed.
He says he too receives death threats from the armed groups that control large parts of Port-au-Prince.
The assassination probe is currently with an independent investigating judge, who has not publicly called for the Prime Minister’s testimony.
Additional foreign support will also be needed to close the case, according to Henry and Vincent — a rare point of agreement.
The US and Colombia did send investigative teams to assist in the early days of the investigation. But with fingers now pointing in all directions, potential foreign partners in Haiti’s intrigue-plagued investigation may feel wary of getting involved.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Justice Minister Rockfeller Vincent.
Reporting contributed by CNN’s Matt Rivers in Mexico City and Melissa Bell in Paris.