(Trinidad Guardian) A police constable with 25 years’ service was denied bail yesterday after appearing in court on ten human-trafficking charges involving three Colombian women. It is alleged that PC Valentino Eastman, 52, who was last assigned to the Mon Repos Police Station, brought the women into the country and harboured them for the purpose of prostitution.
Eastman is the first person in T&T to be charged under the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011. He appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington in the San Fernando First Court where the prosecution objected to bail. Eastman was arrested last Thursday after the women were detained and handed over to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit which launched an investigation into allegations made by the women.
Eastman, of St Julien Village, Princes Town, was slapped with ten charges, including transporting the women to Vistabella for the purpose of exploiting them for prostitution and receiving the women into the country or transporting or harbouring them for the purpose of exploitation. When Eastman appeared yesterday, the magistrate cleared the courtroom of members of the public and press after prosecutor Ramdath Phillip brought to his attention Section 34 of the act which says matters must be heard in camera.
It also says the identities of the victims and their families are to be kept confidential and any breach may lead to a $100,000 fine. Phillip objected to bail for two reasons. Deeming Eastman a flight risk, he said the police had information that he could leave the country by means other than his passport. He also expressed concern that if released on bail Eastman might interfere with prosecution witnesses.
Noting that this was the first such case in the country and possibly in the Caribbean, Phillip asked the magistrate to consider the nature and seriousness of the offences. However, Eastman’s attorney Subhas Panday countered that it was a bailable offence and the prosecution must produce evidence to substantiate the suspicion of witness interference.
He argued that Eastman has strong roots in the country, being a serving member of the protective services and the father of six and grandfather of two. He said Eastman also surrendered his passport and had a fixed place of abode. However, the magistrate upheld the prosecution’s objection and denied bail.
Eastman, who was not called upon to plead, was charged by PC Ramlogan. The matter was adjourned to April 15. Eastman’s attorney will be applying to a judge in the High Court for bail. One of the charges carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for a serving member of the protective services.