By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JURY heard evidence yesterday from the lead investigator in the case of two women alleging to be victims of human trafficking.
Inspector Chanta Knowles took the witness stand and said when she became involved in the investigation, the women, whose identities and origins are being withheld for their protection, directed her to a number of addresses in Freeport where they went during their stay.
The officer, who is a part of the National Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, also said she saw and interviewed a woman who, according to the previous testimonies of the complainants, withheld their passports and coerced them to perform sexual acts for money to payback their airfare to their home country.
As the officer gave her evidence, 24-year-old Chevanese “Sasha” Hall sat listening in the prisoner’s dock behind her lawyers, Jiaram Mangra, 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.
Yesterday, before the officer spoke about the record of the interview with the accused, the jury heard of the officer’s travel to the home country of the complainants in February to further investigate the claims of the two women and to locate potential witnesses.
Inspector Knowles said she looked for the travelling agency the tickets were reportedly purchased from and also went to a local newspaper to verify the claims of one of the complainants that she saw an advertisement in the paper.
The officer said she was able to obtain witness statements from relatives of the victims.
Inspector Knowles then testified of her record of interview with Hall in the presence of Mr Dorsett, Hall’s lawyer.
Hall was asked if she was the owner of the apartment they were found at on Pleasant Street.
Hall, according to the investigator, said the apartment was owned by a friend of hers.
The officer said police had information that the complainants had been living in the apartment as well. Hall said that she and the first complainant had both been there for two weeks while the other only stayed for five days.
Hall denied any familiar relations to the complainants and answered that they only met at the airport where they all caught the same flight to arrive in Nassau.
Hall told the investigator that there was an agreement they could stay in her friend’s apartment and pay $50 per week for accommodations.
Inspector Knowles asked who had picked them up from the airport. Hall replied that a friend picked them up and said the friend was called “Sam.”
It was put to her that she withheld the passports of the two women. Hall denied the suggestion.
Hall, according to the record of interview, said the second complainant kept her own passport and the first gave it to her for safe keeping from the second complainant whom she believed to be a thief.
Hall denied the police’s information that she told the two women they could make lots of money from prostitution and further denied taking photos of them for prospective clients.
The officer said police had information that she gave the women $800 and coerced them into lying to immigration about the nature of their visit to the Bahamas. Hall denied this and said the women came to the country with their own money.
Hall, responding the next suggestion based on the information police had, denied keeping the woman in a state of sexual servitude.
In cross-examination, Mr Mangra asked the officer is she was aware of the regional and international concern over the types of crime his client is faced with. The investigator said she was.
The officer, however, denied that there was pressure on her that impacted the investigation of the case.
Mr Mangra asked the investigator where and when did she receive her training in investigating such cases. Insp Knowles answered that the training was done in the Bahamas in September and October 2013 through the United Nation’s International Office of Migration.
She admitted that the training came after the alleged offences occurred.
The lawyer asked her if she had found the travel agency to which the complainants referred.
The officer said she was unable to locate the agency mentioned and further was unable to locate the advertisement to which one of the complainants referred.
Mr Mangra asked the officer if she had any interaction with the complainants between her involvement in the case (January 29) and June 2013.
The officer said she did interact with them, but denied his suggestions that the interactions were beyond anything of a professional nature.
The lawyer suggested to the investigator that she and the complainants concocted this case to implicate and incriminate his client.
Insp Knowles said his suggestion was untrue.
The trial resumes today before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.