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Woman 'Forced Into Prostitution' To Pay Airfare

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A JURY heard evidence yesterday from the second of two women who allege they were victims of human trafficking.

The woman, whose name is being withheld for her protection, testified that she came across an advertisement in her home country’s local newspaper looking for a person wanting to work as a masseuse in The Bahamas.

She said she called the telephone number on the ad and met up with a woman she called “Tash”, who booked her airfare to Nassau.

However, they then boarded another plane upon arrival and interaction with immigration, to go to another island she did not know.

As the complainant gave her evidence, 24-year-old Chevanese “Sasha” Hall sat in the prisoner’s dock, listening and quietly talking with her lawyers, Brian Dorsett and Benjamin McKinney.

She 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.

Vinette Graham-Allen, director of public prosecutions, and Eucal Bonaby are prosecuting the case.

Jiaram Mangra, Brian Dorsett and Benjamin McKinney are defending Hall.

Yesterday, the complainant said she and another woman were taken to an apartment where they were given a room to share, but their passports were taken from them.

The complainant said she was told that she would have to do prostitution in order to payback her airfare and rent for the time that she was staying in the apartment.

The witness said that on the following evening after her arrival, she was dropped off at a bar by Sam and “Tash“ in the care of the bar owner.

The complainant said she didn’t know any of the patrons in the bar so she went outside.

It was here that she was approached by a man asking to take her home. The witness said the bar owner told her it was okay to go with the man who was prepared to pay her $200 for the night.

“So I went with him,” the complainant said.

“Did he tell you his name?” Graham-Allen asked.

“No, he didn’t tell me his name yet,” the complainant said, adding that she left the bar with him, they began talking and she told him of her dilemma.

They talked until they got to his home where she said she was drinking and the two eventually had sex.

The next morning, she was preparing to go back to the bar when the man she’d slept with asked her if she really wanted to go back.

“I started to cry and I tell him I have to do it. I have no choice, I have to pay her back for the plane fare,” the jury heard from the witness.

“He said stay and he would help me get the ticket money,” she said, then noting that he later advised her to go back to the bar and took her there that evening to speak to the owner.

She said she told the bar owner of her dilemma and he claimed that he didn’t know she was in such a situation. However, she said she was scared of what would happen next when she later saw him on the phone.

This prompted her to run from the bar and onto the road until a passer-by asked her if she was okay. The passer-by offered to take her to get items from downtown before she returned to the home of the man she had spent the night with.

However, she said no sex occurred for the next few days that she was there before the man took her to the police station to report the matter, which she did.

In cross-examination, Mr Mangra asked the complainant if she could not travel back to her home country without her passport. The complainant said she could not.

“I suggest that you did not travel back because you didn’t want to,” the lawyer said.

“That’s not true,” the complainant answered.

“You came here knowing what you were going and wanted to do,” the lawyer further suggested. The complainant disagreed with this suggestion.

When asked about her previous working experience, the complainant admitted that she had no training as a masseuse and had only worked as a cleaner in a doctors office and as a waitress for a Chinese restaurant.

“But I wanted a job,” she added.

“Was it impossible to find a job in your home country?” the lawyer asked.

“Yes. I was trying. I always looked in the classifieds looking for something to do and I come across the ad so I called the number on it,” she answered, adding that the jobs she would have preferred were not available.

Mr Mangra asked the complainant if she had returned to The Bahamas after going to the police and immigration regarding the alleged events.

She admitted she left the Bahamas at the end of June 2013 and returned in August where she remained for five months, but she insisted it was because of the case in question.

Mr Mangra suggested to her that there was no case or trial going on that required her presence in The Bahamas last year and that she had no reason to stay when she, in her own testimony, had repeatedly said how much she wanted to go back to her home country.

The complainant disagreed with the suggestion and said: “I wanted to stay because I had the court case and because I wanted a job because I have my children back at home.”

Mr Mangra asked her if she brought a medical report and/or police record with her in January 2013 when she was coming to apply for work. The complainant said she did not.

“And you expect us to believe you seriously came here to get a job?” the lawyer asked.

The witness said she did not know what documents were required to apply for a job in The Bahamas.

“It was my first time travelling,” she replied.

The cross-examination of the complainant continues today before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.

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