Immigration officers accused of facilitating Latino sex ring

Police are being asked to probe a Latino prostitution ring which is allegedly being facilitated by immigration officers and a private school in South Trinidad. The officers are reportedly allowing Latino prostitutes into the country by organising student visas for them.

However, there is a twist to the story. The request for the probe is coming from the wives of businessmen who are complaining that these Latino sex workers are stealing their husbands away from them.

The T&T Guardian was told by an Immigration Division source, who requested strict anonymity, that the Latino women, who come from Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, Peru and the Dominican Republic, pay as much as US$1,500 to acquire a student visa for a stay up to six months in the country. The women pay a further US$1,000 for any extensions of the visas and some US$2,000 for an extension of their “normal visitor” stay in T&T.

The wives of some businessmen in South Trinidad claim their husbands are spending their hard earned money, up to US$30,000 a month, to fund lifestyles of infidelity with these women.

“These Spanish women coming here and taking away our men with their nastiness and the Government and the police need to seriously send them all back,” said one woman who has been married for the past 25 years.

The woman, who wanted her name noted only as Lilly, said she noticed signs of infidelity in her marriage when funds in their bank accounts started depleting by the tens of thousands a month. She said she was told on many occasions that her husband was also seen frequenting a popular bar in south where the Latino women allegedly operate.

“I don’t know what these women have but they bringing their nasty habits and ruining our sacred marriages and blighting our beds,” the frustrated wife said.

Lilly added that in recent times her health has worsened due to increasing stress levels.

“However they are coming in and being allowed in the country, only God alone knows how, but they have to be caught and sent away for good. They are breaking up our families,” Lilly said.

Other women in similar situations even provided the T&T Guardian with photos of their spouses with the Latino women at various locations, which they say they intend to use should their marriages end as a result of these adulterous relationships.
An employee at a business located in close proximity to a privately-owned school in South Trinidad told the T&T Guardian that “young, shapely” Venezuelan women frequent the school’ compound and many high-end vehicles are also seen “stopping by to pick up these women.”

“Nobody not stupid you know. We see these girls getting into these cars, driven by well-known people in South. It’s a big prostitution ring operation and even some police and Immigration officers are involved because they are the ones being paid big money to turn blind eyes,” the employee added.

The employee also questioned whether or not private schools are registered by the Ministry of Education.

“If so, what is the ministry doing about this? How are they monitoring them? Are the owners and principals properly qualified to operate these schools, because on what basis are these schools accredited, because certificates and diplomas are being offered?”

A senior Immigration officer told the T&T Guardian that the relevant authorities have been monitoring officers’ actions over a period of time and admitted an investigation has already been launched.

“It is just a matter of time that we move in and make the necessary arrests,” the senior Immigration officer said.

Contacted yesterday on the allegations, the principal of the school expressed shock over the claims. The principal said the students enrolled there are either married to business people or are their fiancés. Other students, the principal noted, are already professionals—including engineers, attorneys and doctors—and can fun their own studies. The principal also assured that all students have to produce all necessary documents, including marriage certificates, for enrolment.

“Everything is done legally and according to T&T law,” the principal, before pointing out that based on the allegations being made, the school’s lawyers would be consulted today (Monday).

Contacted yesterday, Southern Division’s Snr Supt Zamsheed Mohammed said he could not speak as he was busy and advised the T&T Guardian to call him back later on. However, calls to his phone went unanswered thereafter.

Efforts to reach the Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon and the Chief Immigration Officer, Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews on the issue proved futile as all messages and calls either went straight to voicemail or unanswered.

PROSTITUTION LINKED TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Venezuela’s Ministry of Health and Social Development (Ministerio de Salud y Desarrollo Social) requires that women working as sex workers in nightclubs get a free monthly health check. The check includes a gynaecological exam and a syphilis screening. HIV tests are required every six months. Sex workers are not screened for infections caused by the hepatitis B or C viruses.

The US Department of State’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report on T&T lists this country as a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

It said women and girls from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Venezuela and Colombia are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels and clubs, often lured by offers of legitimate employment, with young women from Venezuela especially vulnerable. The report said new brothels continue to open across the country, particularly in the east where they are incorporated into small bars and rum shops and are difficult to detect.

“NGO and police sources note that both prostitution and trafficking are historically dependent on police corruption. Law enforcement and civil society organisations reported some police and immigration officers facilitate trafficking and some law enforcement officials exploit sex trafficking victims,” the report said.

The report recommended that T&T implement procedures to guide front-line officials in the identification and referral of potential sex and labour trafficking victims, especially among foreign women in prostitution, migrant workers, and children … further expand training and outreach to educate officials about the manifestations of trafficking in the country to aid in the effective investigation of sex and labour cases and prosecution and conviction of traffickers; raise public awareness, especially among the migrant population, about forced labour; and continue implementing the national action plan.

THE TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS ACT

The Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labour and prescribes penalties of 15 years to life imprisonment and fines. The Children Act (2012), which entered into force in May 2015, prescribes penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for subjecting a child to prostitution.

These are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rhondor Dowlat)

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