Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves speaking in parliament on Thursday 3rd May said the recent mention of this country’s name in a BBC report on human trafficking in the Caribbean “was highly overblown to the state of inaccuracy.”
He said three persons were detained along with cash, cellphones, laptops and other items. They were interviewed by law enforcement officers and were later released pending further investigations.
In the BBC report it stated that: “Tim Morris, Interpol’s executive director of police services, said that “bosses at a factory in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stripped Asian trafficking victims of their passports and forced them into total dependence, taking all their money and means of transport from them.”
Gonsalves contended that if you read what was written you would believe we had nothing to do with the operation.
He explained that St. Vincent and the Grenadines participated in “operation Libertad” during which a local business entity suspected of being involved in human trafficking, was targeted.
Gonsalves further explained that the Anti Trafficking in Persons Unit having interviewed the potential victims/workers and the owner of the business, made certain conclusions, that up to that point in their investigation, that the elements that are necessary to determine a case of human trafficking were not present though the investigation continues.
He said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) which as part of the operation had seized the cash amounting to just over US$11,000, However that was returned after conducting due diligence check, the money he said was derived from legitimate sources and means.
Professionals in Information Communication (IT) Department analyzed the confiscated cellular phones and laptops however thus far no materials of a criminal nature were discovered on those items, he told parliament.
Gonsalves also told parliament that the participating countries agreed to update Interpol on the successes or failures of how the operation went. It was also decided that at the end of the operation, individual countries if they so wished could have published a general release, St. Vincent and the Grenadines did not issue any press release in this regard and neither were authorities here informed that this country’s name would be mentioned in any release.
Gonsalves noted that “the Interpol Press release…is overextended by this particular individual, it has magnified and placed on SVG an unnecessary spotlight and created the impression that this country has a human trafficking problem which the government is not addressing.”