Even as the United National Congress (UNC) continues to vehemently deny that any member of its party has ever been involved in human trafficking, Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher has launched an investigation into the matter now swirling around in the public domain.
A release from the TTPS yesterday said, “Commissioner of Police, Erla Christopher, has ordered an investigation into the allegations of human trafficking currently in the public domain. Following a meeting with the Director of the Counter Trafficking Unit, Commissioner Christopher appointed a special team of officers to investigate the matter.”
The release quoted Harewood-Christopher as saying, “These allegations of human trafficking are serious, and will not be taken lightly.”
The TTPS said the CoP has given the assurance that the matter will be vigorously pursued and thoroughly investigated.
The release did not say exactly who will be investigated, given the current political tit-for-tat surrounding the issue in and out of the Parliament.
The issue has created a firestorm after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said a 2020 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons report was, in fact, referring to a member of the Opposition when it reported on a senior government official who was involved in human trafficking.
The UNC has denied this claim, but former UNC MPs Dr Devant Maharaj and Dr Vasant Bharath have also claimed to have been aware of the issue while they were in the PP government and that the party’s leadership was also aware.
US Ambassador Candace Bond has since clarified that “senior government officials,” as referred to in the report, is meant to mean anyone who works for the Government.
CoP Harewood-Christopher’s announcement yesterday also came as a document circulating online purported to represent a PTSC investigation following a TNT Mirror story in 2012 which alleged a sex ring and escort service within the corporation.
The committee who conducted the report concluded there was no evidence unearthed to suggest PTSC facilities were employed to facilitate any activities outside of its core business but noted the description of the individual involved reported by the newspaper fit that of one of its employees.
Yesterday, a former high-ranking PTSC official confirmed an investigation was carried out and a report compiled into the allegations that surfaced against an executive member back in 2012. However, he said he could not speak to the authenticity of a two-page document that was circulated online yesterday.
Contacted on the issue, UNC public relations officer Dr Kirk Meighoo said he was unaware of the authenticity of the PTSC report.
However, he said it was “alarming and disturbing” that the media was now “focusing on red herrings being thrown up by former minister Devant Maharaj and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.”
On whether the allegations of any UNC member being involved in human trafficking held any truth, Meighoo said, “We are categorically not involved.”
However, he advised that attention be paid to who the senior government official is that was involved
Noting that since 2020 when the report was first published the UNC had raised it and nothing was done, he said, “Now, there is all this chasing of ghosts and witches.”
Meanwhile, a former Ministry of National Security employee advising all those with knowledge of the human trafficking ring and its operations to report the matter to the TTPS, as there was no statute of limitations.
“If it happened nine or ten years ago it is still eligible, as there is no statute of limitations preventing an investigation from taking place now.”
Admitting the COVID-19 pandemic had forced human traffickers to become more creative and innovative in how they peddle human flesh, the official said with restaurants, bars and spas having to close, traffickers switched up operations by renting houses in residential upscale communities to house prostitutes under the guise of offering massages and escort services.
The official said they were not surprised to hear politicians were allegedly involved.
“Trafficking takes place at all levels of the society.”
A former senior TTPS official also said while he was aware of the US report “the information would have been flowing within the period 2018 to 2019.”
Asked if the TTPS had conducted an investigation into the allegations of a human/sex trafficking ring involving political officials, he said, “I don’t know if any investigation was done and they came up with zero-zero. I have no such knowledge of any such investigation being done on any government official as it relates to human trafficking.”
He too agreed there was no statute of limitations.
“The police can launch an investigation into any information that comes to hand right now.”
Guardian Media also contacted Counter Trafficking Unit Director, Dr Samantha Chaitram, yesterday.
However, she said, “I will not be able to speak on the matter.”