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Tuesday 12 November 2019
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[UPDATED] Relatives of guest house owner: It’s not a brothel

The pool located to the back of the property, where early this morning members of the elite police unit, SORT, Special Operation Response Team conducted an exercise, detaining 22 females and 20 men, investigations are ongoing,
Chancellor Heights, Upper Lady Chancellor Road, St Anns.
Monday, October 21, 2019. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.
The pool located to the back of the property, where early this morning members of the elite police unit, SORT, Special Operation Response Team conducted an exercise, detaining 22 females and 20 men, investigations are ongoing, Chancellor Heights, Upper Lady Chancellor Road, St Anns. Monday, October 21, 2019. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.

While 22 women and 20 men remained in police custody up to late yesterday afternoon after an early-morning raid at a St Ann's guest house, a relative of one of the owners of the guest house insists it has never been a brothel and is a reputable business.

Speaking with Newsday yesterday, the woman said the original owner of the guest house died, leaving about five owners and co-owners who have operated it for several years and had never had any run-ins with the law.

She said while the owners would not encourage any kind of illegal activity, it was not a hotbed of prostitution as suggested on social media and insisted it was a normal business like any other.

"It's kind of sad because there are other guest houses that have similar parties like those all the time. This isn't a brothel, it's a normal business, people will call and they may want to have a child's birthday party or a teenage birthday party and there's nothing illegal about that.

"There are a lot of people that will call and make reservations to use the guest house. Some guys will call us up and want to use the place for a stag party or a bachelor party."

The event which utilised scantily-clad women in it's social media advertising was titled 'Secret Sunday' and the relative said such parties began only about three months ago.

The house on Upper Lady Chancellor Road, St Ann's that was searched by police on Monday morning. Twenty-two women and 20 men were held in the exercise. - ROGER JACOB

Newsday understands the raid began just after midnight on Sunday, which was led by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and featured over 80 members of various police units including SORT, the Port of Spain CID, Port of Spain Municipal Police, Child Protection Unit, Counter-Trafficking Unit, the Canine Unit and the Financial Investigations Unit.

Among the items confiscated during the raid was a revolver and a large quantity of cash.

Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Griffith said of the 22 women rescued, most were Spanish speakers and did not have any form of identification and said they were continuing enquiries to determine how many of the women were minors.

He also confirmed police would continue crackdowns on similar events, particularly those related to prostitution, illegal gambling and other criminal enterprises.

Newsday understands one minor a 15-year-old is in the custody of the Children's Authority while the Counter Trafficking Unit continues Human Trafficking inquiries.

Up until press time, those detained were not charged and were still being held and questioned by investigators.

"This is just one of several other operations I am conducting, these are sting operations so we won't be using all the police officers because we see that there have been leaks that are affecting us in such raids so we are doing it without the input of all the police officers in a division, we use SORT and then after we make the raid, that's when the police come in.

"Many times people trivialise this and we feel that this is not important but these are things that cause the bigger picture of violent crime. People don't just pick up a gun and kill someone, many times it's because of a build-up of things, these matters need to be nipped in the bud."

Griffith also noted the closeness of the guest house to the main roads and urged the public to be more vigilant of houses in their communities.

Newsday visited the scene yesterday after the raid where bottles of alcohol and inflatable pool toys were still visible from the outside.

Speaking with Newsday some St Anns residents said while they knew about the guest house, they were unaware of any such activities.

This story was originally published with the title "Relative of guest house owner: It's a reputable business" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

A relative of the owner of the Chancellor Heights guest house, which was raided by police during a pool party on Sunday night, has denied reports that the establishment is a brothel. She insists it is a reputable business.

Speaking with Newsday at the St Anns guest house this morning, the woman said the business has been a part of the community for almost 30 years and has never had any problems with the law.

She said the house caters to families for various events from family outings to children's birthday parties.

"We've been around a while and we've never had this kind of trouble before. We cater to different people and families and they will bring with them people of their own, so those girls being here weren't brought here by us (management)."

Asked about reports of minors being present for the pool party, she said, "Normally what we do when we have a reservation for an event, we will ask how much people are expected to come and whether these people are relatives or what. But we wouldn't know about what guests are coming to the event. A lot of people tend to come to our guest house because we have cheaper rates than others in the area, but it's a reputable place."

When Newsday visited, beer bottles and other beverages were still on tables at the poolside, while inflatable pool toys were still outside.

Residents in the area told Newsday that while they were accustomed to seeing the guest house, they did not suspect anything out of the ordinary.

The raid resulted in 22 women being taken away and 20 men being detained.

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