Chinese sex ring suspects freed, re-arrested

The in­abil­i­ty of the po­lice to quick­ly find for­eign lan­guage trans­la­tors has led to the tem­po­rary re­lease of three Chi­nese men sus­pect­ed of child pros­ti­tu­tion.

High Court Judge David Har­ris yes­ter­day up­held the trio’s habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tions af­ter po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors failed to give an of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion over de­lays in charg­ing the men since they were ar­rest­ed al­most two weeks ago.

How­ev­er, the trio, who can­not be named un­til they are charged, on­ly claimed a mi­nor vic­to­ry as they were all im­me­di­ate­ly re­ar­rest­ed by Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion of­fi­cials for al­leged­ly over­stay­ing their time in T&T.

The move means that de­tec­tives will now have to vis­it the men at the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre in Aripo to charge them at the end of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Pre­sent­ing sub­mis­sions on be­half of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day, at­tor­ney Ravi Ra­j­coomar sought to give an un­of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion for the de­lay. He claimed he was in­formed that po­lice had dif­fi­cul­ties in re­tain­ing trans­la­tors for the nu­mer­ous Chi­nese sus­pects and South Amer­i­can vic­tims in the case, as they all spoke dif­fer­ent di­alects.

Ra­j­coomar al­leged that trans­la­tors, who had pre­vi­ous­ly worked with po­lice on oth­er cas­es, specif­i­cal­ly re­fused when asked to as­sist in the hu­man traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said the is­sue was re­solved on Mon­day af­ter po­lice re­tained a trans­la­tor used by the Ju­di­cia­ry. He sug­gest­ed that in­ves­ti­ga­tors on­ly need­ed 24 hours to com­plete their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and to con­sult with the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) on pos­si­ble charges.

Har­ris did not ap­pear con­vinced by the ar­gu­ment, as he ques­tioned why po­lice of­fi­cers did not put his sub­mis­sions in­to writ­ing as re­quired.

“There are in­ves­ti­ga­tions go­ing on for 10 years, when do we draw the line?” Har­ris said.

He al­so ques­tioned the fail­ure of the po­lice and oth­er agen­cies to have ad­e­quate trans­la­tors.

“T&T can­not hold it­self to be a gate­way to the world or a cos­mopoli­tan coun­try and does not have such ser­vices read­i­ly avail­able,” Har­ris said.

Dur­ing yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, Ra­j­coomar re­vealed in­for­ma­tion on the im­mi­gra­tion of­fences which the trio will be charged with as the hu­man traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues. He claimed that while all three men en­tered T&T legal­ly and were sup­posed to de­part in No­vem­ber last year, Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion records showed they nev­er left.

The men were among 18 Chi­nese na­tion­als who were de­tained on Feb­ru­ary 5 as po­lice raid­ed pri­vate and com­mer­cial prop­er­ties in Curepe, Wood­brook and West­moor­ings. Dur­ing the ex­er­cise, 19 fe­male mi­nors from Venezuela, sus­pect­ed of be­ing forced in­to pros­ti­tu­tion, were res­cued. They re­main in pro­tec­tive cus­tody.

Guardian Media un­der­stands that three oth­er sus­pects have filed sim­i­lar habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tions chal­leng­ing their pro­tract­ed de­ten­tions. How­ev­er, their ap­pli­ca­tions are ex­pect­ed to be­come aca­d­e­m­ic if they are charged be­fore their sched­uled hear­ing this morn­ing.

The State was al­so rep­re­sent­ed by Ne­tram Kow­lessar while Sub­has Pan­day rep­re­sent­ed the trio.

- by Derek Achong

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