Four foreigners on human trafficking charges, police promise more arrests

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Some of the stranded Nepal and Phillipine students

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Wednesday March 4, 2015, CMC – Police say more people are expected to be arrested in relation to a scam that resulted in a group of at least 20 nationals from Nepal and the Philippines being left stranded in St. Lucia.

Police have already charged four people, three from Indian and the other from Bangladesh, in the scam after members of the group claimed that they had responded to an offer of education in hospitality, cruise and business management, from Lambirds Academy based in northern town of Gros Islet.

The Asians said they each paid $US9, 000 each for the courses and $US13,000 each to get to St Lucia, but on arrival here were told by law enforcement authorities that they had been duped.

The police have named the four arrested as Iftekhar Ahmed Shams, Koushal Kumar Batukbhai Chadasama, Ashwin Kanji Patel and Gurjeet Singh Vilkhu. The all gave addresses here in St. Lucia and will re-appear in court on March 11.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frances Henry told a news conference Tuesday more persons are likely to be charged soon and that during the police investigations, 60 individuals of Indian ethnicity have been questioned by the authorities.

“I can say with much confidence you will see that other charges being preferred against the individuals we have in custody and other persons we are seeking after,” she said.

Police said they are also in possession of a number of documents that could assist in their investigations.

Henry said that the number of foreign nationals coming from Nepal and the Philippines did not immediately raise a red flag, because there are many persons who come here to pursue studies at various institutions.

She also explained why the four men were charged with human trafficking offences and not fraud.

“Conditions under which the purported students lived were beyond what was expected for human dignity, they have been moved to a location that we identified to be in keeping with what human beings are expected to be living at,” she said.

The deputy top cop said that police would be engaging international partners and agencies, in an effort to ascertain whether the scam has roots outside of St. Lucia.

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