Caribbean News

Attorney and three others appear in court on charges of human trafficking

A magistrate Monday granted TT$150,000 (One TT dollar=US$01.6 cents) bail to an attorney who has been charged in a matter in which a pastor appeared in court last week on charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and trafficking in persons after law enforcement officials had raided his Transformed Life Ministry Church last October and “rescued” more than 69 people.

Attorney Lena Jaggernath appeared before magistrate Aden Stroude, in the Arima Magistrates’ Court, charged with human trafficking.

Also appearing in court were Cheryl Kalicharan Beharry, Robert Andrews and Anthony Marchan , all have been granted TT$200,000 bail.

Last Friday, Pastor Glen Awong and one of his employees, Indra Jaggernath, appeared before Magistrate Cheron Raphael in the Arima Magistrate’s First Court. They have been jointly charged with keeping people under exploitative conditions, contrary to the Trafficking against Persons Act.

Awong was also charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. All charges were laid indictably.

Wong was released on TT$900,000 bail, while Jaggernath was granted TT$300,000 bail. They will all re-appear in court on January 10.

On October 8 last year, the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) headed by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith went to Awong’s “rehab centre,” where police said they said they rescued 69 people, some naked and locked in cages. Those “rescued” were between the ages 19 to 70 years old.

Awong was charged with kidnapping a man, as well as false im­prisonment and trafficking of persons between the period January 30, 2019 to July 2019.

Meanwhile, attorney Wayne Sturge has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard, urging him to advise Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to remain quiet on the criminal case involving his client.

Sturge, who represents the attorney Jaggernath, told the court on Monday that he had sent the letter to Gaspard complaining of statements made by Griffith at a recent news conference and on social media regarding the case.

Sturge said Griffith had been engaged in “haranguing the media and others about matters which touch and concern this highly publicised case.

“I have noted with great concern the attempt of the Commissioner of Police to provide a running, one-sided narrative, seemingly in an attempt to justify the bringing of charges.

“Quite apart from misleading the public and potential jurors (perhaps inadvertently) about the evidence gathered, which as always is liable to exclusion before ever being heard by a jury, the commissioner seems hell bent on (either knowingly or unknowingly) engaging in conduct designed to prejudice the fair trial of the accused,” Sturge wrote.

He told Gaspard that it was his responsibility as it relates to adverse pre-trial publicity and asked him to do “what is necessary” to have Griffith “show respect for the rule of law and due process” and to “conduct himself in such a manner so that he may avoid facing further action on this issue.

“In clear terms, I pray that you would be good enough to advise Mr Gary Griffith of the need to remain mute about the details of this matter until such time as the law permits him to do otherwise,” Sturge wrote.


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