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The largest human trafficking trial in Saint Lucia, linked to Lambirds Academy scandal, has officially commenced.
The matter started on October 4, with one witness giving evidence and being cross-examined the next day.
It will continue on Wednesday, October 12, when several other witnesses are due to testify.
The trial is before Senior Magistrate Kristine Fulcher.
The defunct institution’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Iftekhar Shams and co-defendants: Kumar Batukbhai Chadasama, Ashwin Kanji Patel, and Gurjeet Singh Vilkhu were charged with human trafficking.
The men were also slapped with money laundering charges, which they all pleaded not guilty to.
The defense team is headed by attorney Marcus Foster.
A number of Nepalese and Filipino nationals were unable to return home after paying huge sums to pursue promises of education and work in Saint Lucia at Lambirds Academy.
The group of foreigners claimed that they paid at least US$9,000 each to an agent from their region to secure a place at Lambirds Academy in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia.
At the Academy, the prospective students were to be trained in hospitality management and promised employment in the United States of America after completing the one-year programme. However, when the foreigners arrived in Saint Lucia to register for classes, the Academy was closed.
The visitors claimed to have mortgaged land and borrowed money to get to Saint Lucia and to finance the course. One student claimed that he spent over US$12,000 for his plane ticket and other expenses to get to Saint Lucia.
Government had sought assistance from the United Nations International Organization of Migration (IOM), to address the suspected human trafficking case, but the IOM has only helped in the repatriation of some students.
The remaining students are said to be the ones who will testify during the trial.