HomeNewsScandal at Haiti Customs After Over 100,000 Rounds of Smuggled Ammunition Seized

Scandal at Haiti Customs After Over 100,000 Rounds of Smuggled Ammunition Seized


Haiti’s Customs Agency has seized an extremely large quantity of illegally imported ammunition the same day that its director was replaced on suspicion of arms trafficking, highlighting the Caribbean nation’s struggle in combating weapons flows.

On July 1, customs and police authorities interdicted roughly 120,000 rounds of ammunition on board a container ship at Port-au-Paix wharf. The illegal cargo, which had come from the US state of Florida, was almost entirely composed of bullets and magazines for high-powered assault rifles.

Police have issued arrest warrants for three individuals, one of whom was reportedly detained and then released last year on charges of arms trafficking, according to Haitian news outlet Le Nouvelliste, citing senior law enforcement.

SEE ALSO: US Guns Flow into Haiti, Fuel Gang Violence

The operation came the same day that the Haitian government appointed a new director and deputy-director of Customs, to replace the agency’s former head, Rommel Bell. Since May, Bell has been under investigation by Haiti’s anti-corruption unit (Unité de lutte contre la corruption – ULLC).

The accusations against him reportedly stem from allegations of illegal arms trafficking, which he has strongly denied, according to statements made by both him and the customs union.

On May 20, the ULCC raided the customs building and initially prohibited staff from accessing computers and files. However, by May 24 this measure was reversed after the customs union retaliated by announcing a departmental strike that shut down port controls.

InSight Crime Analysis

While US-to-Haiti gun smuggling is not new, Haiti’s current customs debacle touches on a number of important developments within the country’s security crisis.

Firstly, the alleged role played by state institutions in arming gangs. Haitian police have been implicated in illegal arms trafficking before and the current PHTK administration has reportedly provided weapons and vehicles on several occasions to leaders of the “G9 and Family” gang alliance (G9 an famni – G9).

After the raid of the customs building, the director of a prominent Haitian NGO made headlines by telling news outlet Alterpresse that state-sanctioned illegal arms regularly arrive at both private and public harbors of Port-au-Prince, with customs agents who seize them risking punishment.

SEE ALSO: Haiti Police, Senator Implicated in US Arms Trafficking Case

“The situation has worsened under the leadership of Rommel Bell…[t]he Haitian State, through the customs offices, is the largest supplier of arms and ammunition to armed groups, particularly to the G9 federation,” he said in late May.

Secondly, and related to the first point, the dire need among the gangs of Port-au-Prince for a steady stream of bullets. Many parts of the US are currently experiencing an ammunition shortage, including the state of Florida, one of the main export hubs for illegal arms to Latin America and the Caribbean.

This has raised ammunition prices, yet with battles raging across Port-au-Prince, particularly in Croix-des-Missions and Martissant, Haitian crime groups cannot afford to count cartridges. The possibility has therefore even been raised that the June invasion of the Palace of Justice was simply about securing money for munitions.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

COCAINE / 17 NOV 2022

InSight Crime sat down with Suriname's President Chan Santokhi to discuss the multiple criminal challenges ahead for the country.


In what appears to be a shot at El Salvador President Nayib Bukele’s administration, the United States has imposed sanctions…

HAITI / 13 MAR 2023

Gang leader Vitel’Homme Innocent has risen quickly in Haiti's criminal landscape. Now he's linked with the murder of former president…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Coverage Continues to be Highlighted

3 MAR 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-director Jeremy McDermott was the featured guest on the Americas Quarterly podcast, where he provided an expert overview of the changing dynamics…


Venezuela's Organized Crime Top 10 Attracts Attention

24 FEB 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published its ranking of Venezuela’s ten organized crime groups to accompany the launch of the Venezuela Organized Crime Observatory. Read…


InSight Crime on El País Podcast

10 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-founder, Jeremy McDermott, was among experts featured in an El País podcast on the progress of Colombia’s nascent peace process.


InSight Crime Interviewed by Associated Press

3 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s Co-director Jeremy McDermott was interviewed by the Associated Press on developments in Haiti as the country continues its prolonged collapse. McDermott’s words were republished around the world,…


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…