Lawyer, 3 held as probe into Transformed Life Ministries continues

Friday, December 27, 2019 - 14:00

A prominent civil lawyer and three other persons have been detained for questioning of the trafficking of persons in the ongoing investigation into Transformed Life Ministries in Arouca in which 69 people were rescued from cages in October this year following an intensive Guardian Media investigation.

Senior police sources told Guardian Media that the attorney was picked up in the wee hours of this morning by officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) in an operation coordinated by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and headed by Sgt Mark Hernandez of SORT.

The SORT team also picked up another female and two males for questioning in North and West Trinidad during the early morning operation.

All will be questioned in relation to the trafficking of persons related to the TLM bust.

Senior police sources say they have been working tirelessly around the clock over the last two and a half months to piece this delicate and extensive investigation together which also meant speaking with several of the victims rescued.

Sixty-nine people ranging from the ages of 19 to 70 years were found locked away in cages at a church located along the Eastern Main Road in Arouca in early October.

According to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, who spoke to Mark Bassant—Guardian Media Limited’s Lead Editor on the Investigative Desk:

“These people, both men and women, are believed to be victims of ‘modern day slavery’ and ‘human trafficking’.”

His comments came following the discovery at the Transformed Life Ministry Rehabilitation Centre made on that day.

“What we believe is that we have cracked what we suspect is the biggest human trafficking ring in the country. Some of them said they have been here for years… This is a much bigger picture and we have to investigate each and every case… This relates to virtual slavery with what we have seen here. Some of them say they have been tortured. It is such a bigger picture with profit being made out of this… Family members deliberately sending their loved ones here and extracting the profits from the families,” Griffith said.

He described the scenes as "barbaric", adding then, "Persons are seen in cages, hand­cuffed...per­sons were being tortured. We saw tasers and batons...and again this is a situation of virtual modern day slavery."