National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds is assuring there would be no cover-up if police officers or any other members of the Public Service are found to have been involved in human trafficking.
He gave this assurance during his live, on-air interview in the Eye on Dependency programme on Sunday on the i95.5 FM radio station.
Hinds promised the heavy hand of the law on any public officers (identifying as one who is paid by the State) found culpable in human trafficking.
“I want to give the assurance to the public as Minister of National Security, I will favour, I will countenance no cover-up for no officer, be it Defence Force, Customs, Immigration or Police. None! Or public parliamentarians too. None!”
His comments came in the wake of the first conviction in the local judiciary under the Trafficking in Persons Act.
Anthony Michael Smith, 38, was convicted on a slew of charges including the human-trafficking of a minor for sexual exploitation. Smith, who was out on bail pending the outcome of the trial, freed himself of an electronic monitoring ankle brace and has absconded.
Smith who remains at large, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in absentia, by High Court judge Geoffrey Henderson.
Although both the minor and the trial judge referenced the police as being part of this illicit act, Hinds said he was still not certain if the officer in question was a member of the TTPS.
“We’ve heard mention to the investigator, in her evidence in the court, that one of the many clients who she (the minor) was trafficked to and provided these unlawful criminals things to, was one officer Michael,” Hinds said during the interview on Sunday.
He said from the evidence in the court and what he was told by the investigator, he was not sure the officer of whom the minor spoke about, was a police officer.
Saying the matter is not as “slam dunk” as one newspaper headline was making it out to be, Hinds explained, “First of all, I am advised that 'officer' does not mean police officer. It could mean officer.”
He pointed out that no one in the Public Service was exempt adding that the first person charged under the law which was passed in 2012, was a policeman who allegedly trafficked three Colombian nationals.
“A former police office was also charged under this law and other public officials.”
Communications manager of the TTPS Joanne Archie said the police are concentrating their investigations on how Smith was able to remove the monitoring device in order to escape. Investigations were also ongoing into whether or not any TTPS member was involved in child prostitution with the victim in the matter involving Smith.
She said this matter would be referred to Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher so a team of investigators can be appointed.