Police To Prosecute Parents Of Girl At Center Of First Solomons Human Trafficking Case

Police and Immigration officers have strong evidence to also prosecute parents of the girl and some of the village elders who supported and facilitated the re-trafficking of the victim 

By Assumpta Buchanan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, September 13, 2017) – Police will arrest and charge parents of a girl who allegedly forced their under-aged daughter to live with a Malaysian logger.

Public prosecutor Andrew Kelesi revealed this in court yesterday when opposing a bail application submitted by Malaysian national Wong Thien Sin.

Sin, an employee of Malaysian logging giant Earthmovers, is facing one count of human trafficking under the section 77 of the Immigration Act 2012.

He was accused of carrying out internal human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation between 30 November 2015 and January 2016.

Prosecution alleged Sin had a sexual relationship with a 13 year-old girl in 2015 up until 2016.

Mr Kelesi told the court that a task force made up of police and Immigration officers have strong evidence to also prosecute parents of the girl and some of the village elders who engaged to support and facilitate the re-trafficking of the victim, by transporting, controlling including receiving benefits from the perpetrator to continue sexually exploiting the girl from the month of December, 2016 until 28th August, 2017.

The girl’s parents were from Vella La Vella, Western Province.

Mr Kelesi said the task force, which visited Vella La Vella, has informed the prosecution Sin’s employer has made arrangements for the alleged victim and her parents and village elders to travel to Honiara.

He submitted that alone is an example of interfering with Crown witnesses.

Mr Kelesi said it is for these reasons that he’s opposing bail for accused Sin.

“The task force needs to extend Sin’s remand while prosecution sorted out additional charges for the girl’s parents and others,” he said.

“This is so that they can be formally arrested and prosecuted in court as well,” the prosecutor added.

“The perpetrator (Sin) has strong network with the village elders including the parents to protect him from prosecution and punishment. 

“The perpetrator is a foreign national who has money and; if released he would interfere and influence the parents and village elders to support him from prosecution.” 

Mr Kelesi further added that Sin would also interfere with the investigation and prosecution. 

He said Sin knew well that the parents and his agents would be also charged including the village elders that involved with him to re-traffic the victim from the months of December, 2016 until the date of 28th August, 2017. 

“The offence of human trafficking is a horrendous crime where Solomon Islands is a signatory to Bali Process on people trafficking and migrant smuggling where under Bali Process Framework is to protect the victims of people trafficking and punish the perpetrators and disconnect the syndicate and its criminal network.” 

Mr Kelesis aid the girl is exposed to threats from the perpetrator and his network where the task force team is yet to organize a safe home to protect her from the perpetrator and his criminal network to keep her safe during the court proceeding. 

He also asked the court to consider that this is the first ever human trafficking case.

In applying for bail, lawyer for Sin, John Smith Pitabelama asked the court to release his client from police custody.

He said his client is entitled to bail.

“My client did not admit the offence,” Mr Pitabelama submitted.

He further submitted that Sin will comply with the bail conditions imposed on him and will have his passport surrendered.

Mr Pitabelama said by having his client’s passport surrendered to the court there is no way he will abscond bail or escape out of the country.

He said his client currently has a permanent job with the Earth Movers company and has a valid passport and valid work permit.

“He is very cooperative when he was arrested,” Mr Pitabelama submits.

The court was also assured Sin will not interfere with prosecution’s witnesses and that he has no intention to do that when he returns to Vella La Vella, Western Province.

Mr Pitabelama told the court that given that prosecution will have others charged is not a good excuse to refuse bail.

He also said prosecution should differentiate human trafficking with people who settled down with a woman.

“My client treated the alleged victim as his wife.

“And to say that he is involved in human trafficking, my client denies that.

“If he is released on bail, he will be monitored by me his legal representation.”

In an earlier hearing, the court was told the alleged incident occurred at a logging camp in Isabel Province where the accused was working as a manager at the logging camp at that time of the alleged incident.

The father of the girl was also working at that logging camp.

The camp belongs to Jubilant Development Logging, an offshoot of Earth Movers logging company.

That logging company has a camp in Isabel as well as in Vella La Vella.

It was alleged the accused started living with the girl at the Isabel logging camp.

He also took the girl with him when he was transferred to the camp at Vella La Vella.

The court was told Sin is a married man who has a wife and children in Malaysia.

Sin was arrested after a joint operation made up of police and immigration officer investigated the matter following a media article on the matter.

Solomon Star
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