TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO's first convicted human trafficker Anthony Smith has been recaptured by police after absconding five months ago.
Smith had absconded from his trial in September 2023 and had been on the run from law enforcement.
Smith, 38, was first arrested and charged on January 5, 2016, for recruiting a child for the purpose of trafficking; 17 charges of sexually penetrating a child; five charges of child prostitution and three charges of assault.
The offences occurred during the period December 2014 to July 2015.
On April 28, 2023, the matter was set for trial on September 18, 2023. Smith absconded.
Justice Geoffrey Henderson continued the trial in Smith's absence and on November 2, 2023, a jury found Smith guilty on all five counts of trafficking of a child.
He was sentenced to 15 years on each count with the sentences to run concurrently upon his arrest.
On February 11, Smith was held by police in Kelly Village, Caroni. Newsday was told North Central Division police conducted surveillance operations on a female companion.
The officers moved in and arrested Smith and his companion at a location in Kelly Village.
Six days after Smith’s trial stared in September 2023, officials from the Ministry of National Security’s Electronic Monitoring Unit received an alarm indicating his electronic ankle-monitoring device had been tampered with.
Deputy director of the ministry’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) Dane-Marie Marshall was instrumental in Smith’s arrest and conviction.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, Marshall commended her fellow police officers and said the news of his arrest was proof the police service was working to bring people to justice.
“The Northern Division intelligence unit was conducting tedious intelligence, and yesterday the fruit of their work came to bear.”
Smith handed over to the prisons authorities for him to begin serving his sentence.
Marshall said it is not yet known if he left the country and returned.
However, she said investigations will continue into his unlawful escape and he will face the relevant charges.
“It just exhibits what we are doing in law enforcement, ensuring that persons who commit these heinous crimes really come to justice, despite whatever hiccups might come along the way.”
Speaking after her appointment in January, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds praised Marshall’s role in Smith’s case and he hoped to strengthen the prosecution aspect of the CTU’s operations.
Marshall said with additional cases in the pipeline, Smith’s capture will boost the CTU’s confidence.
“We have matters that are to be heard in the first quarter of this year and we expect the same results moving forward. This would just give the officers that level of motivation so we can continue to bring convictions and safely ground TT properly when it comes to how we respond to trafficking in persons.”
She said while some believe the police were not working, Smith’s capture proves that “action beats old talk all the time.”
“The TTPS is doing its part. It might be quiet at times, but seeing where the quiet work has really brought this significant fruit, we just need to really give praises to the police.”