Janelle De Souza and Jensen La Vende
ATTORNEY Subhas Panday yesterday petitioned High Court judge Justice David Harris to have three Asian men freed since they have been in police custody 10 days without charge.
Panday will instead return to court on Tuesday, at 3 pm, to get the judge's decision. He told the media he had no information as to why the men were arrested since an interpreter had yet to be located.
“They have not been charged with anything as yet. That is why we have gone for the writ of habeas corpus on their part,” Panday said. The men are believed to be three of the 18 arrested during police raids, between February 5 and 6, in connection with the discovery of 19 Venezuelans – three teenage girls and 16 women, between the ages of 15 and 19 – who were allegedly held captive for the purpose of sex trafficking.
Panday said his clients, whose nationalities are still to determined, were returned to police custody after appearing in court, and additional affidavits were to be filed by Monday. Attorney Ravi Rajcoomar represented the State in the matter.
Last week, police were denied twice by Chief Magistrate Maria Earle Busby-Caddle in their attempt to legally retain an estimated $1.5 million believed to be part of a money laundering scheme associated with the alleged sex ring. Officers assigned to the Finance Intelligence Bureau (FIB) first attempted to apply to a Port of Spain magistrate to have the money seized on February 8. However, they arrived at the court too late and they were advised to return. The officers had 96 hours to apply to have the money seized, according to section 38 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, but did not. The police discovered the cash during the raids and it remains in their possession while the investigation continues.
On Friday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi had confirmed that one of the 18 people who were arrested in the raids had filed a writ of habeas corpus. He said this would have been possible because the Opposition had not supported the Bail Amendment Bail when it was last brought before the House in 2018.
“I want to remind this country this Government went to Parliament to extend the bail provisions and the UNC said no,” Al-Rawi said, “It was good enough for them to deny bail for people to be arrested for gang matters while the investigations continue but it was not good enough for them when they are in opposition.” He made the comments after a seminar at the Radisson hotel in Port of Spain.
Al-Rawi added that while sitting as an opposition senator, he supported the law and voted for it, which allowed for amendments relating to gang offences to be passed. He called on Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to account for the UNC’s refusal to support a law that would deny bail for certain offences.
“I call on them to explain themselves as to why they want chaos to reign in the country. I call upon the Opposition Leader to state her case on the bail amendment. Because if she indicates now that she is prepared to deny bail in certain circumstances the legislation will come back immediately,” he said.
– reporting by Ryan Hamilton-Davis