Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Two convicted for human trafficking

Published:Saturday | June 18, 2016 | 6:00 AMLivern Barrett

Jamaica maintained its 100 per cent conviction rate for human trafficking after a St Elizabeth man was yesterday found guilty of the offence in the Home Circuit Court.

Rohan Ebanks was found guilty of rape, trafficking in person, and facilitating trafficking in person after a seven-member jury deliberated for more than two hours.

His female companion and co-accused, Voneisha Reeves, pleaded guilty to facilitating trafficking in person at the start of the in-camera trial .

Both will know their sentences when they return to court on July 7.

Prosecutors Lisa Palmer-Hamilton and Sahai Whittingham-Maxwell led evidence that while on a visit to Haiti in 2010, Ebanks convinced relatives of a teenage girl to allow him to take her to Jamaica with the promise that she would have a better life.

However, prosecutors say when the teen arrived in Jamaica, she was forced to take care of the couple's children and was sexually assaulted.

"The jury has spoken and they have sent a message to human traffickers," Whittingham-Maxwell told The Gleaner.

Ebanks broke down in tears after the jury's decision was announced. He maintained his innocence.

MAINTAINING HIS INNOCENCE

"See God up a Heaven deh, me no do nothing," he wailed with his hands on his head.

"Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ! Me baby dem! Me baby dem!" Ebanks continued before presiding judge Justice Courtney Daye ordered that he be taken into custody.

His attorneys, Donald Bryan and Paul Wayne Gentles, told The Gleaner that they accepted the jury's verdict, but disagreed with it.

"We certainly will be appealing this decision. We believe that the addition of a fourth count [charge] after the defence had put forward its case was highly prejudicial to the accused man," said Gentles.

Ebanks and Reeves bring to four the number of persons convicted of human trafficking since the legislation was enacted in 2007. Businessman Rajesh Gurunani and St Andrew shopkeeper Nadine Pitt are the other persons convicted of the offence.

Three other human-trafficking cases, involving five accused persons, are before the Home Circuit Court.

The United States Department of State, in its 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, criticised Jamaica for not securing any convictions for the offence. The State Department also recommended that Jamaican authorities vigorously prosecute, convict and punish human traffickers.