PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday October 9, 2019 – Police in Trinidad and Tobago this morning said they had “unearthed modern-day slavery” at a church’s rehabilitation centre, rescuing 69 people who had been held in captivity and arresting a pastor and five other people.
The revelation from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) followed a sting operation coordinated by the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and executed by the Special Operation Response Team (SORT) at the Transformed Life Ministry Rehabilitation Centre on Eastern Main Road in Arouca.
The rescued people – all citizens of the twin-island republic – included 65 men and four women ranging in ages from 20 to their 60’s The TTPS said in a statement they were “all held captive…most of them were in cages and some handcuffs”.
“We have now cracked, probably what is one of the biggest situations pertaining to human trafficking in this country,” Commissioner Griffith said on the scene.
He said some of the people had been at the facilities for years.
“This is a much bigger picture and we’ll have to investigate each and every situation…This relates to virtual slavery where persons have been in cages; we have reports from some of them that they’ve been tortured. It is a much bigger picture – there’s profit made out of this,” Griffith said.
The string operation began at approximately 12:15 a.m. today, at the church on Eastern Main Road, Arouca. Search warrants were issued after a period of monitoring and investigations.
In addition to Commissioner Griffith, the TTPS’s Victim and Witness Support Unit also on scene, assisted by a medical unit comprising of doctors, nurses and ambulance attendants from the North Central Regional Health Authority, who conducted initial on-scene examinations of the rescued individuals before taking the individuals for treatment.
The TTPS said reports had been made to senior officers months ago about possible imprisonment of persons at the facility, and Commissioner Griffith is now investigating possible negligence of duties on the part of those officers.
Speaking to the media on the scene, the top cop said that senior officers had come to him “with the audacity…to say that they were aware of reports of false imprisonment”.
“So this matter has gone a little bit further where it can actually expand into possible investigation taking place with police officers.…I will assure the public there will be full transparency,” he said.