Kidnapped YouTuber who paid RM230,000 ransom is still unable to leave Haiti

An armoured police car patrols the General Hospital area, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 2, 2024. Maalouf’s travails come as Haiti continues to be in the clutch of powerful gangs who have taken over much of the capital and closed the international airport. — AP

An American YouTube star who was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti for 17 days said he was freed after paying a ransom, but was then unable to leave the country because he was detained again.

Adisson Pierre Maalouf, who is known as “YourFellowArab” and has 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube, said he travelled to Haiti to interview gang leader Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier but was seized, along with his Haitian fixer, by a rival gang. It cost him about US$50,000 (RM237,800) in ransom and stolen equipment to secure his release.

“Everything I have seen in this country is corruption, people taking bribes, police officers working with gangs,” Maalouf told VOA after he was released by the gang on March 31. “The reason we were kidnapped was because we were set up by corrupt police officers.”

On April 1, Maalouf wrote to his 230,000 followers on X that he had been unable to leave the country.

“After everything, I was peacefully leaving and someone tried to extort me AGAIN and now I am detained for no reason and no explanation,” he wrote.

Maalouf’s travails come as Haiti continues to be in the clutch of powerful gangs who have taken over much of the capital and closed the international airport. Gunfire erupted this week near the National Palace in what the EFE news agency described as an attempt by the criminal groups to take over the symbolic seat of the executive branch.

Haiti has been without a leader since Prime Minister Ariel Henry left the country over a month ago to try and arrange international help. He has since been unable to return.

The country is waiting for a nine-member Interim Presidential Council, backed by the international community, to be officially confirmed so it can appoint a new president, green-light a multinational security force, and pave the way for general elections.

The Caribbean nation of 11.5 million has been trapped in horrific violence that has only grown worse since the 2021 murder of President Jovenel Moise. More than 1,550 people have been killed during the first three months of the year in a situation that the UN has called “cataclysmic”.

Maalouf, the YouTuber, said he knew the risks he was taking by going to Haiti.

“That’s what I do, I travel to dangerous places, I speak to people who are dangerous to understand their stories and hear their voice, but after this I’m done,” he said. “My parents don’t deserve the trouble that I’ve put them through.” – Bloomberg

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