By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A WOMAN, claiming to be a human trafficking victim, admitted she came to the Bahamas under false pretenses, but denied that she did it to become a prostitute.
The first of two complainants, whose identity and origins are being withheld for their protection, dismissed a lawyer’s suggestion that she was fabricating the story of her passport being withheld and being forced into prostitution to “save” herself.
Chevanese “Sasha” Hall, 24, the woman accused of trafficking by bringing the complainant to the Bahamas, listened from the prisoner’s dock. Hall is charged with four counts of trafficking of a person, and two counts of unlawful withholding of papers, alleged to have been committed between January 10 and 28, 2013. Hall denies the charges.
Before yesterday’s cross-examination, the jury heard from the complainant that she was approached by the woman in her home country who asked if she would accept an offer to come to The Bahamas for work.
The complainant said that when she accepted the offer, Sasha paid for her to fly to Nassau.
However, instead of staying in Nassau as she was told, she and the other woman, who had travelled with them, were taken to Freeport, Grand Bahama, by Sasha. A man, by the name of “Sam”, was introduced to them.
She claimed she was forced into prostitution to repay her plane ticket.
Yesterday, the first complainant was cross-examined by Hall’s lawyer Jiaram Mangra.
Mr Mangra suggested to her that she was fabricating the story of her passport being withheld and being forced into prostitution to “save” herself. The key witness denied this.
“You indicated to immigration on January 10 that you came to spend 14 days on vacation?” Mr Mangra asked.
“Yes, sir,” the complainant replied.
“So you got an extension of your stay by immigration?” the lawyer asked next. The complainant said she did.
“I’m going to suggest to you that Sasha never got an extension for you to remain in the Bahamas,” the lawyer said.
“I didn’t even know where the immigration office was when I came here. It’s my first time travelling as an adult on my own. The time Sasha and Sam carried me there, I didn’t speak,” she replied.
Mr Mangra suggested again that she did go to the immigration office to get an extension.
“Yes, I was taken to the immigration office and I was given an extension,” she answered.
“When you went to immigration, I suggest to you, you were interviewed as to why you wanted an extension,” Mr Mangra said.
“Yes and no,” the complainant answered, explaining that “I was asked why I was staying in the Bahamas.”
“Were you questioned as to why you were seeking an extension?” Mr Mangra asked. “Yes,” she replied, “but could not recall how long the extension was for.
“I suggest when you went there, you had possession of your passport,” the lawyer said. “Yes,” she agreed.
“And it was you who handed it to the immigration officer?” Mr Mangra asked.
“I had to return it after the interview,” the key witness replied.
“To the investigator?” the lawyer asked.
“No, to Sam and Sasha,” the key witness replied, adding that the handing over took place in the immigration parking lot.
“The passport was issued to you by your home country?” Mr Mangra asked. “Yes,” she answered.
“I’m suggesting to you that you had absolutely no reason to hand your passport over to anyone else,” the lawyer said.
“In my situation, I thought I didn’t have a choice,” she replied.
“Are you saying you were compelled?” the lawyer asked.
“Was I intimidated? Was I scared? Yes,” she answered, adding that Sam and Sasha had threatened her life and that of her family.
“That’s what they did,” she added.
“Did you inform the police of those threats when they came to the house in Freeport?” the lawyer asked.
“No, I didn’t,” the complainant replied.
Mr Mangra then suggested to the complainant that when she came to the Bahamas, “it was your choice to pursue the profession of a prostitute.”
“I came because I was promised a job in a bar or as a maid, whatever she worked out,” the complainant said, referring to Hall.
“Did she represent to you that she was an employer?” the lawyer asked. “No,” was the reply.
She also said she did not ascertain if in fact there was a job for her before leaving her home country.
“I didn’t ascertain about this because I knew I was coming under false pretences ’cause I knew I didn’t have a work permit,” she said, adding that she thought she and Sasha were friends and was expecting the defendant to “hook me up.”
The trial continues today before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.
Mr Mangra is assisted by Brian Dorsett and Benjamin McKinney.
Vinette Graham-Allen – director of public prosecutions – and Eucal Bonaby prosecute the case.