By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that the “chips will fall where they may” as an investigation continues into claims from a Jamaican woman who alleged that she was raped by a senior Immigration officer.
The officer was placed on administrative leave on Saturday. It followed his arrest by police, who took him into custody for questioning last Wednesday, confirmed Department of Immigration Director William Pratt. He has since been released from custody, according to an article published in The Gleaner, the Jamaican national daily newspaper.
The matter was not included in any of the daily crime reports that were issued by the Royal Bahamas Police Force last week.
This comes as Mr Mitchell further revealed that a separate investigation was underway into a complaint by another detainee who alleged that money, which was checked in upon his arrival at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, was missing as he was released.
Mr Mitchell said if the money was not found a police investigation would be launched.
During a press conference at the Department of Immigration, the minister insisted that he did not support any malfeasance from staff of the department.
“The public needs to know that,” he said, “the chips will fall where they may. The government and the Prime Minister will not countenance the undermining of the integrity of the Immigration Department and stands by measures necessary to ensure its integrity is not compromised.
“It is important for officers of the department to understand what we have been saying that this is a new era of increased scrutiny, transparency and public accountability. Those who cannot adhere to those standards are not welcome in the Department.”
Later, while responding to questions from The Tribune, Mr Mitchell said he was making a public statement because the allegations went public. He added that he was doubtful these latest allegations would have any long-term impact.
“I am sure that over the coming days you will see a lot of sentiments being expressed in the public domain. But I think most of the rational people will understand that in any system you will find individual examples of malfeasance or misbehaviour.
“I am confident that should the allegations prove to be correct that it’s not systemic in anyway and it is certainly not sanctioned by the government.”
On Saturday, the Department of Immigration released a statement informing the public that the immigration officer had been placed on leave with immediate effect pending the outcome of the sexual assault allegations.
Asked why the officer had been placed on leave at this point when no wrong doing had been proved, Mr Mitchell said the action was standard procedure in such instances.
“The matter is also before the police,” the statement read. “The appropriate steps for disciplinary action have been taken. All necessary steps, including prosecution, suspension and dismissal from the public service will be applied where warranted.
“Once again, the Ministry wishes to indicate that it does not condone or sanction – in any way, shape or form – abuse of any kind by any officer of the department. It will not be tolerated and the strongest measures will be taken where there are violations of the rights of people.”
It added: “The minister for immigration has spoken to the Honorary Consul of Jamaica to the Bahamas to convey his deep regret at these allegations and assured the Consul that the matter will be thoroughly investigated.
“A diplomatic note to this effect will be sent to the Jamaican Foreign Minister and the minister will speak to his counterpart in Jamaica shortly.”
Mr Mitchell told reporters that he could not say when the investigations would be complete. He said all that could be done was to expedite the matter and ensure the probe was handled thoroughly and carefully.
According to The Gleaner, the woman who is from Ocho Rios, St Ann, alleged that she was abducted and raped by the officer after she was caught up in the police arrest of 11 women on suspicion of prostitution at a local bar on December 13. The alleged rape victim, who claimed to be a bartender at the establishment, was one of them.
She told The Gleaner that despite producing a copy of her spousal permit to prove legal status, she was still taken onto the bus that took her to a downtown Nassau police station.
“Everyone was afraid,” she told the Jamaican daily, “I thought I was safe since I have my papers. When we went in the bus, I said, ‘I have residency papers. I have a spousal permit’.”
After being detained at the Central Police Station, The Gleaner said, and then the Detention Centre the woman claimed being released into the custody of the immigration officer last Monday.
She alleged that the officer signed her out of the Detention Centre, telling her that he was taking her to the Immigration Department.
However, she claimed that the officer later took her to his home where she was repeatedly forced to have sex with him.
He allowed her to leave his home last Tuesday morning, she alleged. Later that day, she filed a report with the police.