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CCJ to hand down rulings in two sets of cases from Guyana

CCJ to hand down rulings in two sets of cases from Guyana

by staff writer

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 12, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) says it will on Tuesday deliver judgements in two sets of cases from Guyana that could have implications for the political environment in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

The CCJ, which is Guyana’s highest court, said Wednesday that its first judgement will “determine whether the appointment, or the process followed in the appointment, of Guyana’s Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman breached the Constitution”.

President David Granger had appointed retired justice James Patterson as GECOM chairman following the resignation of Dr. Steve Surujbally, in November 2016. Surujbally stepped down from office at the end of February 2017.

Last year, Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire dismissed an application by a senior member of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) challenging Granger’s decision to appoint a chairman from outside the lists provided to him by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo.

PPP executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, had called on the High Court to declare that the appointment of Patterson violated the constitution and is “accordingly unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect”.

The opposition party had also claimed that Justice Patterson is not constitutionally qualified to be appointed GECOM chairman and wanted the High Court to grant an order “rescinding, revoking, cancelling and setting aside the appointment”.

The CCJ said that its second judgement on Tuesday will “determine three consolidated cases arising from last December’s motion of no confidence in the government.

“One of the main issues in that case was whether 33 or 34 votes were required to carry the motion given that the membership of the National Assembly totalled 65 members. Another issue in dispute was whether one of the members of the National Assembly who voted in favour of the motion was ineligible so to vote because he was disqualified from membership of the National Assembly as a result of his citizenship of Canada,” it said.

Jagdeo had challenged the ruling of the Court of Appeal in his country that invalidated a motion of no confidence that was passed in the National Assembly in December 21, last year.

When the matters came before the High Court in Guyana in January, it ruled that only 33 votes were required. However, on appeal to the Court of Appeal, the three-member panel by a 2-1 majority held that 34 votes were required.

Charrandass Persaud, who was then a government legislator voted in support of the motion in the National Assembly, ensuring that the coalition administration lost its one-seat majority in the 65-member legislative body.

The Guyana government had argued in the appeal that Persaud was ineligible to vote because he held dual citizenship.

The CCJ said that it will begin delivering the rulings at 10.00 am (local time) on Tuesday.

Posted in CARICOM, Court, Elections, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Former FIFA Vice president loses challenge to his extradition to United States

Former FIFA Vice president loses challenge to his extradition to United States

by staff writer

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 11, CMC – The Court of Appeal Tuesday dismissed a judicial review by former international football official, Austin Jack Warner, challenging his extradition to the United States where he is wanted on charges of fraud arising out of a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) bribery scandal.

Warner, a former government minister, had earlier appealed the ruling by High Court judge James Aboud, who had dismissed the claim for judicial review.

Austin Jack Warner (File Photo)

Warner had challenged the process by which the extradition proceedings against him were being carried out and sought to quash the authority to proceed (ATP) which was signed in 2016 by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

The ATP gave the magistrate the green light to begin committal proceedings. Warner also challenged the legality of the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act, and the treaty signed between this country and the US.

But in dismissing the latest claim, the three-member Appeals Court, stayed the magisterial proceedings for 21 days pending an application by Warner for permission to argue his case at the London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest and final court.

In the 40-page written decision, the Court of Appeal comprising Justices Gregory Smith, Prakash Moosai and Andre des Vignes said the extradition treaty had not been shown to lack conformity with the Act and there was no merit in Warner’s case that the US order which declared that country as a declared foreign territory was not valid.

“Therefore, the pending extradition proceedings in respect of the appellant before the magistrate are valid,” the Court of Appeal ruled, adding that “there was no denial of justice in the issuance of the ATP by the Attorney General”.

Warner, who is on TT$2.5 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) bail, was indicted by US authorities over allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies spanning 24 years.

Warner, who served as FIFA vice-president for several years, is charged with 12 offences related to racketeering, corruption and money laundering allegedly committed in the jurisdiction of the United States and Trinidad and Tobago, dating as far back as 1990.

But Warner claims the case against him is politically motivated and accuses the United States of seeking revenge because it lost to Qatar in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup.”

He surrendered himself to police here on May 27, 2015, after learning of the provisional warrant.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Court, International Sports, Legal, Local, News, Regional, Regional Sports, Sports0 Comments

Attorney found guilty of theft

Attorney found guilty of theft

by staff writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun. 4, CMC – A jury on Tuesday found well known attorney  Vonda Minerva Pile,   guilty of theft.

Pile, was accused of stealing BD$191,416.39  (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents), belonging to her former client, Anstey King, between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010.

However, the jury said she was  not guilty of money laundering.

The 7-2 verdict was handed down after two hours of deliberations by the jury.

She has been remanded until July 16.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Court, Crime, International, Legal, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Over 70 police officers declare  assets

Over 70 police officers declare assets

by staff writer

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Jun. 5, CMC –  A total of 71 Police Officers from the category of Corporals and Sergeants were among Grenadians in public service who recently filed declarations of assets with the Integrity Commission in accordance with the Integrity in Public life legislation.

The declarations made between May 8 and May 29 included  persons who requested extensions including senators, police officers and persons from Ministries and Departments.

“The filing of these Declarations were made pursuant to the Integrity in Public Life Act Number 24 of 2013, Section 28 (1) & (2), which require persons in public life, listed in the First Schedule, to file Declarations with the Integrity Commission disclosing their assets, liabilities, income and interest in relation to property,” said a  release from the Integrity Commission.

The filing of declarations is an annual exercise that commenced in March 2014.

The penalty for not filing is ence on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$20,000 or twelve months imprisonment.

However, if a matter is before the court that requires the Integrity Commission to release declaration information then a Judge can issue the order.

In accordance with Section 28 (4) of the Integrity in Public Life Act,  should Declarants  fail to file their declarations, or without reasonable cause fail to furnish required documents in accordance with the act, the Commission shall publish such fact in the Gazette and at least one weekly newspaper in circulation in Grenada.

The Commission says it looks forward to the continued cooperation of persons in public life in being compliant with provisions of the Act as it continues the implementation of Grenada’s Integrity and anti-corruption System.

Posted in Court, Legal, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

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Mueller undercuts Barr’s narrative that downplayed the impact of DOJ guidelines against charging a sitting president


By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Updated – May 29, 2019

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

WSJ: White House wanted USS John McCain ‘out of sight’

Pelosi: I am ‘gravely disappointed’ with attitude of DOJ

Trump ally: Mueller press conference was ‘political’

Nadler: Mueller clearly demonstrated that Trump is lying

Sanders: We’re ‘always prepared’ for impeachment fight

Mueller says charging Trump was ‘not an option’

Mueller details the parts of the Russia probe report

Differences between Barr and Mueller are telling

Bennet: My cancer diagnosis could have been disastrous

O’Rourke: Call to impeach Trump isn’t a rushed decision

MCLEAN, VA - MARCH 22: U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs his home March 22, 2019 in McLean, Virginia.  It is expected that Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and release his report. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barr’s response to treason question called ‘astonishing’

He broke with GOP under Nixon; his advice for them today

Trump: I’m not a John McCain fan, but I didn’t do it

Fact-checking Trump’s Mueller statements

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

WSJ: White House wanted USS John McCain ‘out of sight’

Pelosi: I am ‘gravely disappointed’ with attitude of DOJ

Trump ally: Mueller press conference was ‘political’

Nadler: Mueller clearly demonstrated that Trump is lying

Sanders: We’re ‘always prepared’ for impeachment fight

Mueller says charging Trump was ‘not an option’

Mueller details the parts of the Russia probe report

Differences between Barr and Mueller are telling

Bennet: My cancer diagnosis could have been disastrous

O’Rourke: Call to impeach Trump isn’t a rushed decision

MCLEAN, VA - MARCH 22: U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs his home March 22, 2019 in McLean, Virginia.  It is expected that Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and release his report. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barr’s response to treason question called ‘astonishing’

He broke with GOP under Nixon; his advice for them today

Trump: I’m not a John McCain fan, but I didn’t do it

Fact-checking Trump’s Mueller statements

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement Wednesday presented a stark contrast to the attorney general regarding the significance of the Justice Department guidelines against indicting a president.In his own public comments, Attorney General William Barr has leaned heavily on the idea that Mueller did not feel the guidelines are what prevented him from charging President Donald Trump with obstruction.But Mueller on Wednesday undercut that narrative, making clear in his comments that the guidelines had a significant influence on the investigation, tying his hands from the very start from even considering whether a crime had been committed.Indicting Trump while he was in office was “not an option we could consider,” Mueller said, explicitly citing the official guidance from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Mueller: 'If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so'

Mueller: ‘If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so’His comments largely echoed the explanation in his 448-page report, which was publicly released in April. The report presented substantial evidence that Trump obstructed justice on a few fronts, but didn’t offer a conclusion on whether he had broken the law or whether he should be charged. The Justice Department and the special counsel’s office issued a joint statement Wednesday evening saying “there is no conflict” between Barr’s and Mueller’s comments about the OLC opinion.

Here’s what Mueller said

In his rare public appearance, Mueller said how he was authorized in May 2017 by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate obstruction of justice, in addition to the core mission of getting to the bottom of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election. “As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. He then brought up the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines, and later explained how the internal guidelines “informed our handling of the obstruction investigation” in a few different ways. “Under long-standing department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view — that too is prohibited,” Mueller said.

He continued, “The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”These comments, plus the extensive explanations put forward in Mueller’s report, make it clear that Trump’s presidential immunity played a major role in the investigation. Mueller knew the rules from the start and they guided the entire outlook of the obstruction inquiry. “So that was Justice Department policy, those were the principles under which we operated,” Mueller said. “And from them, we concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the President committed a crime. That is the office’s final position. And we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.”

READ: Robert Mueller's full remarks on the special counsel investigation

READ: Robert Mueller’s full remarks on the special counsel investigation

Here’s what Barr said before

Before Mueller spoke up, much of the public discourse about the conclusions of the probe had been shaped by Barr, through his public statements and closely watched congressional testimony. At times, Barr has cherry-picked Mueller’s report to fit a different narrative that is rosier for Trump.On at least six occasions after Mueller submitted his final report, Barr downplayed the role that the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines had played in the investigation. Examined closely, Barr’s comments may not be technically contradicted by Mueller, because he hedged his words carefully. But these comments were highly misleading and did not broadly align with Mueller’s stated rationale. On the day he released the Mueller report, Barr was asked how Mueller had reached his decision not to offer a formal recommendation whether to charge Trump with obstruction. Barr said he’d defer to the report itself, but then he brought up a meeting he’d had in early March with Mueller, Rosenstein and another top Justice Department official, where the guidelines were discussed.

Nadler on impeachment: 'All options are on the table'

Nadler on impeachment: ‘All options are on the table’“I will say that when we met with (Mueller) … we specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion,” Barr told reporters. “And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”In written testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, Barr suggested that the investigation should have proceeded like any case against a typical defendant, ignoring the sweeping limitations imposed on Mueller’s team by the Justice Department guidelines. And during the hearing, Barr repeated his comments about the early March meeting with Mueller and continued to downplay the weight of the OLC guidelines on the special counsel’s decision-making. “He reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction,” Barr told the senators. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, then asked the attorney general, “If the special counsel found facts sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding?”Barr’s response: “If he had found that, then I think he would state it, yes.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Court, Elections, International, Legal, Local, News, Politics0 Comments

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Sold Into Sex Slavery

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by Mark Bassant and Hema Ramkissoon

May 18 2019

SOLD A LIE

Maria There­sa, a 19-year-old nurs­ing stu­dent from Tu­cu­pi­ta, saw the promise of a new be­gin­ning.

Like oth­er places in Venezuela, the econ­o­my of her small town in the Orinoco Delta had col­lapsed, caus­ing thou­sands of res­i­dents to flee.

Maria saw her chance when a friend told her about peo­ple who could take her to find a bet­ter life in Trinidad.

Some traf­fick­ers, an or­gan­ised net­work of Trinida­di­ans and Venezue­lans, promised Maria and her friends that they would loan them mon­ey for the trip. When they land­ed in Trinidad, the same peo­ple would find them jobs as hair­dressers or house­keep­ers.

So, one night in Jan­u­ary, Maria climbed on­to a pirogue from a hid­den in­let on the Orinoco Riv­er. About six hours lat­er, she land­ed in an area she be­lieved to be Ch­aguara­mas, where she and oth­er pas­sen­gers on the boat were met by a man they didn’t know. From there, they were tak­en to a house oc­cu­pied by oth­er mi­grants.

For three days, Maria and eight oth­er Venezue­lans were crammed in­to a room where day­light bare­ly crept in. Their pass­ports were tak­en from them and they were fed a di­et of Crix and wa­ter. One day, they had no food at all.

It was on­ly then Maria re­alised that the traf­fick­ers had sold her a lie.

On the third day, the door to her room opened and one of her han­dlers told her to get pret­ty; that some vis­i­tors would be ar­riv­ing soon. Maria was con­fused and afraid but did as she was com­mand­ed.

When a strange man came in and leered at her, she un­der­stood her fate.

“They said that we (were) go­ing to be pros­ti­tutes and if we didn’t like it, it didn’t mat­ter, be­cause they brought us here and we had to do it.”

Dressed in a green track suit, Maria gave this de­tailed ac­count from a safe house in Pe­tit Bourg.

“I would have worked in any job be­cause there is noth­ing in Venezuela. There is no op­por­tu­ni­ty. You can’t sur­vive. But not pros­ti­tu­tion,” Maria said, bury­ing her face in her hands.

BONDAGE DEBT PAID WITH SEX

Venezuela’s eco­nom­ic col­lapse has trig­gered an ex­o­dus of some five mil­lion peo­ple from the South Amer­i­can na­tion. By some es­ti­mates, some 60,000 have sought refuge in Trinidad.

A three-month Guardian Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed how hu­man traf­fick­ers have swooped in to prey on Venezue­lan women seek­ing eco­nom­ic sur­vival. These traf­fick­ers have placed hun­dreds of young women in­to mod­ern-day sex slav­ery.

The net­works in­volve an en­tan­gled web of Trinida­di­an and Venezue­lan traf­fick­ers who smug­gle these women, cor­rupt po­lice of­fi­cers who fa­cil­i­tate the trade and pro­tect wrong­do­ers, and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials who of­ten times take bribes to turn a blind eye to the women’s ex­ploita­tion. Un­der­world Venezue­lan fig­ures with il­lic­it arms and Asian crim­i­nal gangs are of­ten part of the crim­i­nal net­works.

The il­lic­it sex trade seems to span the en­tire coun­try, from the re­mote port of Ce­dros to high-ris­es in West­moor­ings, where sex slaves—some as young as 15 years old—are held against their will, locked in rooms and forced to have sex with men. Some vic­tims are drugged so old­er men can have their way with them.

The traf­fick­ers rou­tine­ly take these women to bars and night­clubs in search of clients. The younger the women, the high­er the price.

For a 30-minute ses­sion, traf­fick­ers charge $300, about the price of a doc­tor’s vis­it. The rates dou­ble to $600 for an hour. For the en­tire night, the traf­fick­er pock­ets $6,000.

The women are giv­en a mere pit­tance to sur­vive. They are forced to work night af­ter night un­til their bondage debt is erased; a debt owed to traf­fick­ers for their pas­sage to this coun­try.

These women are trapped in a cy­cle of debt with no re­lief in sight. And the traf­fick­ers find ways to keep the women en­slaved by adding the cost of food, cloth­ing, shel­ter, med­ical and pro­tec­tion fees to the orig­i­nal fig­ure.

SIX YEARS LAT­ER, NO CON­VIC­TIONS

Since the in­cep­tion of the Counter Traf­fick­ing Unit un­der the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty six years ago, on­ly 56 peo­ple—a lit­tle more than nine a year—have faced the courts for this of­fence, ac­cord­ing to a top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial. To date, no one has been con­vict­ed, au­thor­i­ties say.

In the last six months, po­lice have made some high-pro­file ar­rests, but hu­man rights ac­tivists con­tend that not enough is be­ing done.

The re­cent ar­rests in­clude:

On Feb­ru­ary 6, Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith lead an op­er­a­tion that res­cued 19 young South Amer­i­can women from two homes in West­moor­ings and a restau­rant along Ari­api­ta Av­enue. The young women, ages 15-18 years, were locked in rooms and made to take drugs and have sex with men for mon­ey. Po­lice al­so round­ed up at least 18 sus­pects for ques­tion­ing. A Chi­nese man, Jin­fu Zhu, and his 23-year-old Venezue­lan ac­com­plice, Solient Tor­res, were lat­er charged with 43 sex charges un­der the Sex­u­al Of­fences Act. The young women, most­ly of Venezue­lan na­tion­al­i­ty, were lat­er tak­en un­der the State’s care and kept in a safe house.

Mere days af­ter this ma­jor bust, a 24-year-old Venezue­lan woman who had es­caped from hu­man traf­fick­ers was re­cap­tured by them in Diego Mar­tin. Po­lice in­ter­cept­ed the al­leged traf­fick­ers along the Solomon Ho­choy High­way in the Clax­ton Bay area. Bat­tered and bruised, the shak­en woman was tak­en to the Wood­brook Po­lice Sta­tion. Akeem James, a 28-year-old spe­cial re­serve po­lice of­fi­cer and 39-year-old Kevin Houl­der a truck dri­ver were lat­er ar­rest­ed .

In Oc­to­ber last year, a 19-year-old Venezue­lan woman was se­vere­ly beat­en in a house in Debe. A video of the beat­ing was post­ed on so­cial me­dia by her al­leged per­pe­tra­tor who be­rat­ed her. A Diego Mar­tin man, Aval­on Cal­len­der was lat­er charged with kid­nap­ping and wound­ing with in­tent.

Au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that the hu­man traf­fick­ing prob­lem in­volv­ing sex slav­ery is a mas­sive one.

Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Stu­art Young said the res­cue of the 19 women last Feb­ru­ary had trig­gered a flood of tips about il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty in­volv­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing across Trinidad and To­ba­go.

THE WORLD TAKES NO­TICE

Sev­er­al in­ter­na­tion­al agen­cies have fo­cused on the sex traf­fick­ing prob­lem dur­ing their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Venezue­lan mi­grant sit­u­a­tion in Trinidad.

Melanie Teff, who is UNICEF UK’s se­nior hu­man­i­tar­i­an ad­vo­ca­cy and pol­i­cy ad­vis­er, re­called in­ter­view­ing about 50 Venezue­lan vic­tims who re­count­ed how traf­fick­ers en­trapped them in­to lives of sex and drugs.

In an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia, Teff said, “We heard about these women and girls read­ing ad­ver­tise­ments for what seemed like jobs in bars that did not ap­pear to be pros­ti­tu­tion. Their doc­u­ments are tak­en away leav­ing them trapped in a for­eign land.”

Teff said the height­ened de­spair of these Venezue­lan women left them at the mer­cy of heart­less traf­fick­ers.

“They want to sur­vive and send back mon­ey to their fam­i­lies, who they feel a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­port. If they are not al­lowed a way of be­ing le­gal in Trinidad and To­ba­go, then they are go­ing to be at much greater risk of be­ing ex­ploit­ed,” she said.

‘COPS IN­VOLVED IN HU­MAN TRAF­FICK­ING’

PCA di­rec­tor David West con­firmed re­ceiv­ing many re­ports about po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing and hold­ing girls and young women cap­tive.

Young girls are at the mer­cy of rogue po­lice of­fi­cers, West said.

“These young girls do not know the sys­tem and there­fore they are afraid to re­port it,” he said.

West said that the PCA had re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of com­plaints in 2019 when com­pared to pre­vi­ous years.

“It is very wor­ry­ing, the sto­ries that the girls tell are…,” West said, paus­ing to com­pose him­self.

A fa­ther of two girls, West said, “I do not wish it on any­body’s daugh­ter, what they have al­leged­ly done to those girls.”

West said vic­tims should know that his agency will in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints against of­fi­cers. “Come to the PCA and we will take their com­plaints and in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and bring those per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice,” he said.

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith said he could not com­ment on pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Grif­fith said he was mov­ing quick­ly to adopt poli­cies to tar­get and stamp out cor­rupt cops with the in­tro­duc­tion of poly­graph tests.

“Like any oth­er kind of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty hu­man traf­fick­ing we will treat through sting op­er­a­tions,” Grif­fith said. “If they don’t (stop),we will get enough ev­i­dence to put them be­hind bars.”

‘YOU’LL BE­COME PROS­TI­TUTES’

Cas­es in­volv­ing Maria and oth­er women im­pli­cate po­lice of­fi­cers who not on­ly held them cap­tive but fa­cil­i­tat­ed sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion of the women.

Maria was adamant that an of­fi­cer was the mas­ter­mind be­hind the hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that held her cap­tive for al­most six months.

An­oth­er woman who was held at the house in Debe, south Trinidad, said a po­lice of­fi­cer rou­tine­ly raped her and forced her to have sex with cus­tomers. “He col­lect­ed and kept all of the mon­ey.”

Guardian Me­dia spoke to their vic­tims…

Like Maria, Ju­marie Car­oli­na fled pover­ty and star­va­tion in her home town of Cara­cas.

She en­dured a nine-hour jour­ney from her home to Tu­cu­pi­ta. Car­ry­ing on­ly a knap­sack, she board­ed a fer­ry to Ce­dros.

A friend from her home town told her of the op­por­tu­ni­ties in Trinidad. The is­land at the South­ern tip of the Caribbean was de­scribed as an ide­al es­cape from the crum­bling Venezue­lan so­ci­ety.

At Ce­dros, she met a man iden­ti­fied as James who picked her up and took her to a house in Princes Town. James told her she would be there for a few days be­fore she could start work­ing as a wait­ress at a near­by bar.

Af­ter three days, one of the traf­fick­ers en­tered her room and raped her. Over sev­er­al days, he re­peat­ed­ly raped her. “He would force me to take (mar­i­jua­na), then rape me,” said Ju­marie, tears welling up in her eyes.

James made it clear that she owed him $1,000 for the trip and would have to work as a pros­ti­tute to re­pay him.

He bought her a back­less hal­ter-top and tight-fit­ting jeans and took her to a well-known San Fer­nan­do night­club fre­quent­ed by men, from all walks of life; hop­ing their mon­ey could buy them a good time with young Span­ish-speak­ing women.

When­ev­er Ju­marie seemed un­will­ing to com­ply with James’ wish­es, he would threat­en to harm her fam­i­ly while bran­dish­ing his firearm, she said.

Ju­marie said she knew she had to es­cape. A taxi dri­ver hired by James to take her to and from the club was her on­ly con­nec­tion to the out­side world. One evening, she asked him how much it would cost to take her to meet a Venezue­lan friend in Port-of-Spain. He agreed to help her.

Af­ter hear­ing Ju­marie’s sto­ry, her friend—de­ter­mined that it would be too risky to keep her—con­tact­ed an­oth­er woman who gave Ju­marie refuge.

But it seemed as though she was un­able to es­cape James’ reach. He sent a se­ries of men­ac­ing mes­sages, show­ing pic­tures of her fam­i­ly mem­bers in Venezuela, she said.

“You can’t hide here and you can’t hide in Venezuela,” he told her via text mes­sage.

Ju­marie had ini­tial­ly agreed to take Guardian Me­dia re­porters to sev­er­al lo­ca­tions where men had abused her. But on the day of the meet­ing, Ju­marie texted a friend, “I’m gone. He will find me.”

She then left on a boat from Ce­dros.

ES­CAP­ING CAP­TORS

One day in Feb­ru­ary, Maria es­caped from her cap­tors when she jumped through a bath­room at a bar in Wood­brook. She ran as fast as she could with no idea of where she was head­ed. She met some Venezue­lans on the street and bor­rowed a phone to con­tact a friend. Maria end­ed up in the same safe house as Ju­marie.

Af­ter ex­chang­ing sto­ries, Maria and Ju­marie re­alised they were vic­tims of the same sex traf­fick­ing ring. They had even stayed in sep­a­rate rooms of the same Debe house rent­ed by the po­lice of­fi­cer.

The sin­gle-storey house, paint­ed in brick red, had raised con­cerns among lo­cal res­i­dents who point­ed out that the house’s win­dows had been plas­tered over and ro­bust steel door kept oc­cu­pants in­side.

Many neigh­bours told Guardian Me­dia how Span­ish-speak­ing women would leave the house at night and re­turn in the wee hours of the morn­ing.

The same house was the scene of sev­er­al ques­tion­able in­ci­dents over the last year, in­clud­ing the vi­ral video of the beat­ing in­volv­ing the Venezue­lan woman.

PO­LICE OF­FI­CER DE­NIES IN­VOLVE­MENT

Both Maria and Ju­marie claimed that an of­fi­cer known as He­mant “Crix” Ram­sumair, who had ties to the po­lice of­fi­cer known as James, rent­ed the Debe home where they were once held cap­tive.

Peo­ple who live in the area said Ram­sumair resided ten min­utes away from the house in ques­tion.

Guardian Me­dia ap­proached Ram­sumair a few weeks ago out­side the Bar­rack­pore Po­lice Sta­tion where he worked. Ram­sumair was asked to ex­plain sev­er­al in­ci­dents at the house, in­clud­ing the beat­ing of the Venezue­lan woman last Oc­to­ber and the use of the prop­er­ty to en­slave Maria, Ju­marie and oth­ers.

Ram­sumair had been sus­pend­ed for some time from the po­lice ser­vice be­cause of a do­mes­tic mat­ter and had on­ly re­cent­ly re­sumed du­ty. He ac­knowl­edged tak­ing charge of the house about two years ago, but said he re­lin­quished it af­ter the beat­ing cap­tured in the vi­ral video.

Ram­sumair dis­tanced him­self from the al­leged beat­ing in­ci­dent at the house and de­nied any part in any hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that in­cludes the in­volve­ment of po­lice of­fi­cers.

He chalked up the in­ci­dent to noth­ing more than a lover’s quar­rel. He said, “That was the guy’s girl­friend and some­thing hap­pened and he could not take it and that is the gist of it. Se­ri­ous­ly.”

While Ram­sumair claimed to have giv­en up rental of the prop­er­ty, lo­cal res­i­dents con­tra­dict­ed that claim.

A rel­a­tive of the own­er, who re­sides in Cana­da, said they had been try­ing to evict Ram­sumair for sev­er­al months now with­out suc­cess.

Asked to com­ment on the as­ser­tions by Maria and Ju­marie and their or­deal, Ram­sumair said: “I would like to see that be­cause I knew all the peo­ple who stayed there. They were my friends. They can’t say any­thing bad. I think I have a good re­la­tion­ship with one or two of the girls I know who came to Trinidad.”

When asked if po­lice of­fi­cers in the area were part of this il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty?

Ram­sumair said, “No, that is not so. It could nev­er be so.”

Ram­sumair said he had nev­er been un­der any in­ves­ti­ga­tion for hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Ram­sumair said, “Hon­est to God, I don’t know any­thing about the stuff, that pros­ti­tu­tion thing. My fam­i­ly taught me bet­ter than that.”

In the last sev­er­al months, dozens of Venezue­lan women have en­tered the coun­try in the hope of a new life. Many have been duped in­to sex slav­ery.

Un­like Ju­marie who es­caped, these women re­main be­hind trapped.

Hema Ramkissoon is the top ed­i­tor for the Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed broad­cast di­vi­sion. She has been with the com­pa­ny for more than a decade. Hema is the host of CNC3’s Morn­ing Brew pro­gramme which high­lights pol­i­cy and pol­i­cy­mak­ers in T&T.

Mark Bas­sant heads the in­ves­tiga­tive desk at Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed. He has more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in jour­nal­ism and is a grad­u­ate of Ry­er­son Uni­ver­si­ty in Toron­to, Cana­da. He has won six Caribbean Broad­cast­ing Union awards for Best In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing in tele­vi­sion.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Court, Crime, Featured, International, News, Police, Regional, Youth0 Comments

Mitchel Anguilla

Connecticut Man Facing Charges In Anguilla Over Death Of Resort Worker

April 23, 2019 – Lisa Rozner, Local TV

https://cbsloc.al/2vhodI9

DARIEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – A Connecticut man is accused of killing a hotel worker on a Caribbean island while on vacation with his family.

Scott Hapgood

A family vacation on the British island of Anguilla ended with an arrest and accusations of manslaughter for 44-year-old Scott Hapgood, of Darien.

Last week the island’s police department arrested the father of three in the death of 27-year-old hotel employee Kenny Mitchel. Mitchel worked at the luxury Malliouhana Resort, where Hapgood was staying.

Kenny Mitchel

A death certificate shows Mitchel, also a father and husband, died of suffocation and blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso.

Hapgood’s lawyer reportedly alleges his client was acting in self-defense.

A judge in Anguilla initially denied bail but then allowed Hapgood to walk free on bail equivalent to about $75,000.

His neighbors didn’t want to go on-camera, but were shocked and say Hapgood is a kind man. They say the family has three children in elementary and middle school.

Hapgood works at UBS Financial Services Company. A representative there would only say they were following the situation closely.

As for Mitchel, his family tells CBS2 he’s a native of Dominica and was a peaceful man from a devout Christian family. Among those he leaves behind are a daughter, who they say was his pride and joy.

Hapgood is due back in court on the island Aug. 22. His lawyer allegedly told a local paper there that he has every intention to clear his name.

Posted in Court, Crime, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional, Youth0 Comments

Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”

Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”


Is our God-fearing, Christian “tradition” outdated,  oppressive and irrational?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2019 –  In trying to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[1]  Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly held[2] that  many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.”  That is but an inch away from implying that the God-fearing, Christian faith that is the Caribbean’s dominant tradition is inevitably oppressive, outdated, ill-founded and/or irrational. Likewise, the historic legacy of Parliamentary Democracy in the Westminster system[3] with separation of the powers of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – may also seem to be just as outdated. 

Such perceptions will not be left unanswered, even though this requires some fairly challenging steps of thought. Justice Smellie and others have forced the matter.

First, we must answer the attitude that one can tell the truth by the clock: what is old (or old-fashioned) is at best suspect. However, truth is not told by the clock, but by what is sound. Where,  well documented experience – history – is a key means to access what is sound.  Yes, slavery, racism, exploitation, oppression and other age-long painful evils and errors are in our past, but so are the conscience-guided reformation principles and movements that created a legacy of liberty and established constitutional democracy in our region. Where too, the Common Law and the linked Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy under rule of law are historically anchored, time-tested traditions that build in many centuries of hard-bought experience and sound lessons in liberty and self-government. Failure to recognise, appreciate, acknowledge and respect that is not a credible context for sound reform.

Similarly, the foot of the cliff we fell over because we acted unwisely is not the best foundation for building a better future. For example, if we could go back to 1986 – 88, would we treat the Wadge-Isaacs report on volcano hazards in Montserrat in the same way? What should we have done differently between 1995 and 2003? What are we hearing today that we would be well-advised to heed (but may not take seriously)?

Likewise, it is often fashionable nowadays to denigrate the Christian religion and faith in God, the gospel and scripture. All of these are commonly dismissed as irrelevant, outdated, irrational emotional crutches or even as “fairy tales.” More broadly, “faith” and “reason” are often seen as opposites, so only what is “secular” and “modern” is responsible, sound, scientific, progressive and rational.  However, if we probe almost anything we accept as truth or knowledge (say, A), we will see that it has some sort of basis (say, B). But, why accept B? C, then D etc. We thus come to Agrippa’s three unwelcome alternatives:

[i] an endless (= “infinite”) chain of warrant we cannot complete, vs.

[ii] question-begging circularity, vs.

[iii] accepting a finitely remote, but unprovable start point (= a point of faith). 

Of these the first two fail immediately, forcing us to the third approach. The question we face, then, is not whether we have “a point of faith,” but in what/who and why.

Worse, we have seen many scientific revolutions that overturn older schools of thought – often, one funeral at a time. History has to be regularly updated or even revised. After Kurt Godel,[4] we know that the major axiomatic systems of Mathematics are not utterly certain; even while it is obviously self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 etc.

Do we then throw up our hands and say, we cannot know anything for sure so we know nothing at all? No, even that is a (self-refuting) knowledge claim: we know that we know nothing. Oops.

Instead, we turn to reasonable, responsible faith. That is, we unavoidably have a “faith-point,” first things that we are willing to trust as credibly true but cannot prove – the “first principles” and “first plausibles” through which our proofs, arguments, knowledge and decisions are built. We may then compare alternative faith-points (“worldviews” is the technical name[5]) on [i] reliably covering the facts, [ii] logical coherence and [iii] explanatory power; towards the “best.”

Where also, there are a few plumb-line, self-evident truths we can use to test our thinking. For instance, it is undeniably true that error exists, which is thus certainly known, though humbling (as, we may err). So, worldviews that suggest that we cannot cross the ugly gap between our inner world of thoughts and how things seem to us and the outer one of how things actually are in themselves, fail.  Similarly,  we can be confident: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.  

Likewise, St Paul astutely asked: “even . . . [for a] pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” [1 Cor 14:7, KJV.] That is, without clear distinct identity we can neither think nor communicate. A first, inescapably true law of thought: A is A. Where: if A is confounded with what is not-A, there is only needless confusion and chaos.  (Which, should already ring a few warning-bells.)

Of the live worldview options before us, millions can testify that it is not at all unreasonable or irresponsible to trust the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, the veracity of the gospel of Jesus and the life-transforming insights of scripture.

Turning to the scriptures,[6] we meet there the voice of the Creator God, proclaiming the end from the beginning, establishing a covenant people, accurately prophesying the messiah to come hundreds of years ahead of time. A messiah who would be a despised, rejected wounded healer unjustly put to death but rising in triumph and bringing many souls to salvation. In the gospels, we see just such a Messiah,[7] one who was despised and unjustly crucified but rose from the dead with five hundred witnesses who could not be silenced, and now with millions across the Caribbean and world whose lives have been touched for the good by that risen Christ.

It is this same Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

Here, we see “tradition,” “religion,” “history” and the obvious complementarity of the two sexes jointly testifying to what marriage is at root, a law of our morally governed nature that is prior to any human government and its decrees. Therefore, as government did not invent marriage, its officers cannot use the magic of words to “modify” or “update” or “add to” it as they please under colour of law. Government is not God.

Until very recently, this was generally recognised and respected by legislatures and judges alike.  So, given the contrast between an ages old law anchored on the naturally evident creation order that founds stable human society and radical judicial novelties, which should we see as “reasonable,” why?

Now, too, is what is old inevitably suspect, likely to be oppressive, discriminatory, violating of “rights”?  To ask is already to answer: no, we also do not tell good/evil by the clock but by what is right. Marriage, as that which recognises and honourably binds men and women through natural and complementary differences vital to nurturing the next generation is clearly not “discriminatory.”   So, that our laws have hitherto recognised the law of our nature that is literally written into our maleness and femaleness is a reflection of reality, not “oppression.”

To suggest otherwise is blatantly morally unsound and chaotic. As, we are now beginning to see. E


[1] See, TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/what-is-marriage/

[2]See https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/03/legalises-gay-marriage/

[3] See http://australianpolitics.com/democracy/key-terms/westminster-system

[4] See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

[5] See https://www.thefreedictionary.com/worldview

[6] See https://www.biblegateway.com/

[7] See http://vimeo.com/17960119

Posted in Columns, Court, De Ole Dawg, Legal, News, Opinions, Regional1 Comment

Gerald elucidates on Redhead

Gerald elucidates on Redhead

Adapted from Radio Montserrat

A local social commentator continued to give a different view following the officially led public celebration of the life of the recently deceased Justice Albert Readhead, who was afforded a ceremonial burial in Antigua and followed up by being further honoured in Montserrat.

Justice Redhead, a long-standing jurist, who has served with the sub-region including Montserrat for over thirty-five years, died in Antigua in March after a period of illness. Claude Gerald, a keen follower of the workings of the law, told ZJBNews that when one becomes a Judge, one has to be prepared, to make social sacrifices.

“You cannot be fraternizing with Tom, Dick and Harry, because you will lose credibility, and you will compromise the judiciary. A judge does not have buddies or partners, except perhaps for his colleagues and maybe his family. Because judgeship is a very hallowed undertaking. So, it’s not about being popular and being in the center of the red of the egg. A judge becomes a hermit and a recluse once he accepts judgeship.

“I want to argue here, that it’s only in that light, that a judge can have the moral courage to do what the law says and make interpretations that are wholesome and to advance the law. That is what is essential.”

Mr. Redhead was given an official funeral by the government of Antigua, which was popularly broadcasted in the region. The government of Monserrat and the local bar joined also. But, Mr. Gerald says that despite all the words spoken at his death, “no one has uttered a word as to just how his Redhead’s actions helped to grow the law.

“How his decisions have made the law stronger. No one spoke of his integrity and his moral courage. It’s all empty talk about how he was a nice man, how he was my friend and how we got along very well,” he said.

“And, let me tell you this,” he concluded, “in our culture, when a man becomes the friend of an official, that official is expected to do the friends bidding. Justice Albert Redhead lived controversially, and died similarly because of his approach of matters before him.”

Justice Redhead was born in Grenada and studied in London, but, after returning to Grenada, moved on and worked in St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Montserrat for over 30 years. He first served in Montserrat in 1985.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator on Montserrat. Ceegee15@hotmail.com.

Posted in Columns, Court, Features, Legal, Local, News, Obituaries, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

Special High Court sitting in Montserrat

Special High Court sitting in Montserrat


Montserrat Reporter‏ @mratreporter

Yesterday, April 5 2018, at Special sitting of High Court in Montserrat – Justice Morley presides over tributes in memory of Judge Redhead

12:27 PM – 6 Apr 2019

Posted in Court, Government Notices, Local, News, Obituaries, OECS, Regional0 Comments

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