Quebec man charged with terrorism, planning to overthrow Haitian government

MONTREAL — The RCMP say a 51-year-old Quebec man has been charged with planning a terrorist act to overthrow the Haitian government of Jovenel Moïse.

Gérald Nicolas will appear at the Quebec City courthouse on Dec. 1 to face three terrorism-related charges. He is not detained in the interim, police said Thursday.

Nicolas is charged with leaving Canada to facilitate a terrorist activity, facilitating a terrorist activity and providing property for terrorist purposes. The first two counts carry maximum 14-year sentences while the third carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

Police say their investigation of Nicolas is not related to the July 2021 assassination of Moïse and that they are two separate events. A seizure was carried out Nicolas' home in November 2021.

The Mounties allege that Nicolas, a resident of Lévis, Que., planned to stage an armed revolution in Haiti and ultimately seize power.

Sgt. Charles Poirier, an RCMP spokesperson, said the charges against Nicolas are serious and that he is alleged to have travelled to Haiti to co-ordinate a group of individuals whose intention was to take part in a coup.

"What was found and what is alleged that occurred during this investigation is that Mr. Nicolas actually travelled to Haiti and to other Central and South American countries — we're talking about multiple countries — in order to recruit, finance and acquire some weapons for his armed revolution," Poirier said from Montreal.

"He not only wanted to overthrow the government in place, but also seize power."

Poirier said the investigation shows Nicolas was unsuccessful in acquiring weapons.

"At no time was the Canadian public in danger, his actions were aimed solely at Haiti," Poirier added.

The RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team began its investigation in July 2021 after exchanging information with police in Lévis, just south of Quebec City. Police say the alleged planning began in January 2020. Poirier said Nicolas does not appear to have had any alleged accomplices in Canada.

"For now, the RCMP is only laying charges against him," Poirier said. "He was the one who planned and designed this armed revolution, but it is possible that in the future other individuals might be charged."

Poirier said the case is unusual, but it sends an important message. "If you are a Canadian citizen, breaking the law in a foreign country is the same as breaking the law in Canada," Poirier said.

Poirier said Nicolas was not previously on the RCMP's radar.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press