Haiti Quake

Kidnap lawyer a 'trafficker'

2010-03-19 22:59

Special Report

Santo Domingo - A fugitive who once acted as the lawyer for US Baptist missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children was arrested on human-trafficking charges, authorities said on Friday.

Jorge Puello, 32, was detained as he left a McDonald's restaurant late on Thursday in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, the National Drug Control Agency said.

Agency spokesperson Roberto Lebron said he did not know whether Puello would be extradited to the US, where he is wanted on trafficking and smuggling charges, or El Salvador, where authorities say he led a prostitution ring.

His mother, Soledad Puello, had told The Associated Press earlier on Thursday that she and others were negotiating with Salvadoran prosecutors for her son to turn himself in.

Puello initially served as the Americans' legal adviser and spokesperson, but authorities later identified him as the man wanted on an Interpol warrant requested by authorities in El Salvador.

Smuggling illegal migrants

Authorities also have an outstanding warrant for his arrest on an alleged US parole violation following a 2003 federal indictment out of Vermont accusing him of smuggling illegal migrants from Canada into the United States.

Puello was living in Canada at the time and said he was working undercover for US authorities.

Puello attracted international attention when he provided the US missionaries detained in Haiti with food, medicine and legal assistance.

One of the Americans' Haitian lawyers, Aviol Fleurant, told the AP that Puello absconded with $30 000 in legal fees the Americans had raised for Fleurant.

Puello, who was born in New York but holds both US and Dominican citizenship, told the AP in February that he was innocent of all accusations.

Nine of the 10 missionaries involved in the case have been released from jail and returned to the United States.

Group leader Laura Silsby remains in custody at the police station that is being used as Haiti's temporary government headquarters.

Read more on:    haiti  |  human trafficking  |  haiti earthquake

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