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Tuesday 26 March 2019
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Three more Asians seek freedom

In police custody for 13 days

A hearing of habeas corpus applications for three more Asian men who have been in police custody for 13 days without charge has been adjourned to today.

On Monday, applications were filed for three more who are said to be part of a group of 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.

Their applications are being heard by Justice Kevin Ramcharan and they are represented by attorney Peter Taylor.

At yesterday’s brief hearing, attorney Ravi Rajcoomar, who appears for the State, told the judge that the State’s response were also filed and both sides agreed to have the matter adjourned.

Ramcharan agreed to grant the adjournment and also gave permission for Taylor to withdraw a claim against the Attorney General having conceded that the AG was not a proper party to the action.

Appearing for the Central Authority was attorney Netram Kowlessar while attorney Christian Chandler also appeared for the police. On Tuesday, Justice David Harris ordered the immediate release of three Asians after the police failed to justify the men’s lengthy detention.

Their attorney Subash Panday, on Friday, filed writs of habeas corpus seeking to their release. Rajcoomar told Harris the reason for the men’s lengthy detention was because the police encountered some difficulty in getting Chinese interpreters to interview them as well as Spanish-speaking translators of various dialects to take statements from the victims, some of whom are under-aged.

He said charges had been drafted by the police who are working with the Director of Public Prosecutions and once directions are given by him, they will be laid.

Harris was not convinced, reminding Rajcoomar that the men had been in custody for 12 days, and the police had, at the time, not provided a proper, written explanation to justify the men’s detention.

He said the line had to be drawn somewhere and ordered the men’s immediate release.

However, immigration officers immediately took the men into their custody as they said their investigations showed the men had breached several immigration laws, including overstaying their time in Trinidad. Last week, police were denied twice by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-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.

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