(Trinidad Guardian) Police have smashed what they believe to be a major sex and drug ring operating in Western Trinidad after they raided several upscale homes and a restaurant along Ariapita Avenue in Port-of-Spain early yesterday morning.
During the police operation in West Trinidad that started at 2 am, 19 South American females were rescued while police detained 10 male Asian suspects. They also seized over a $1 million in local and foreign currency and arrested five male Asian and three female South Americans in Curepe last evening, after intelligence gathered from the first set of raids in the west led them to East Trinidad.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith yesterday told Guardian Media that some of the women were rescued at an upscale Columbus Drive, Westmoorings home, complete with swimming pool, while other women were rescued at another upscale home along Morne Coco Road, near St Anthony’s College and the rest at the restaurant.
Griffith coordinated the operation, which involved officers of the Western Division, Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), Financial Intelligence Branch (FIB) and the Child Protection Unit (CPU).
Griffith described the operation as a significant breakthrough.
“They have been instrumental in what may very well break a major ring in Trinidad and Tobago in the involvement of illegal immigration of young ladies that also involves prostitution and all other aspects of human trafficking,” Griffith told Guardian Media.
He said the young women were held in captivity and were possibly victims of a sex ring.
“Most of them are 15 and 16 years old that were actually held against their will, they were basically slaves being used as prostitutes by certain individuals.”
He added, “Imagine they were keeping these girls in rooms that were locked up and bolted. And police also found drugs in these rooms.”
CTU director Alana Wheeler said they were working closely with the young women and appealed to the public to report similar cases to the authorities.
“We are currently in the process of screening them with interpreters to determine if they are victims of trafficking or not. As the Commissioner said, they are minors and very young adult females and we are asking the public, if you identify suspected young women, particularly foreign migrants who are in places they ought not to be, please refer them to the relevant agencies,” Wheeler appealed.
ASP Wendell Lucas, of the FIB, also noted that human trafficking a far-reaching illicit trade and also a lucrative business for many. He warned homeowners to take note of the types of homes which were used in the ring and pointed out that they should be more alert when screening people for the lease or rental of their properties.
“What we are seeing here is an evolving investigation where there is a lot of money involved and as the Commissioner indicated, these young ladies have been brought into a ring of prostitution and the evidence so far suggests that these ladies were placed in several places and several locations in Trinidad and Tobago, in properties that were leased from landowners,” Lucas said.
“This is a call to all landowners and property owners to be mindful of the persons who you are leasing your property to and have some idea as to what is going to be taking place at your property. What we are seeing is an elaborate scheme which involves these young women and we have seen a lot of money involved in these transactions.”
Hours after the west Trinidad raids were concluded, police raided a Chinese restaurant in Curepe and arrested five Asian men and three South American women and seized over $1 million in assorted currency.
Investigations are continuing.