Guyanese have a saying “running from the jumbie and reaching up with the coffin.”
That appears to be the plight of many Venezuelan women who are fleeing the unrest in their homeland, and ending up being forced into prostitution.
Several Guyanese are before the courts for offences related to the alleged exploitation of these women.
One accused, Fiona Hopkinson, was slapped with nine counts of trafficking in persons. She is said to have trafficked eight Venezuelan women at the Diamond Hotel and Bar in Georgetown.
Last year, Hopkinson and Rodwell Dempster appeared before a City Magistrate who remanded them to prison for the offences.
It was alleged that Dempster and Hopkinson between September 2017 and January 2018, trafficked five Venezuelan women, who were brought to be commercial sex workers, at the business.
According to reports, police carried out a raid at the club and forty-one women, all foreign nationals, were detained. Most of the foreign nationals were victims of human trafficking.
Soon after, Hopkinson was back in court, this time for allegedly trafficking four Venezuelans for sexual exploitation. She was also charged for withholding an identification card belonging to one of them.
It is alleged that she trafficked the women between September 1, 2018 and October 31, 2018, at Club Diamond.
It was further alleged that between August 28, 2018 and October 31, 2018, Hopkinson unlawfully withheld the identification card of one of the Venezuelan nationals in aid of trafficking in persons.
She once again denied the allegations after they were read to her by Senior Magistrate Leron Daly in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
According to information, on November 3, 2018, the police, at a roadblock, intercepted a car with four Venezuelan nationals. When asked to produce their identification cards, they were unable to do so.
They were taken to CID Headquarters, where they alleged that during the month of August 2018, they were desperately in need of jobs and Hopkinson offered them jobs in Guyana.
While in Guyana, the Venezuelans worked at Club Diamond. It was reported that Hopkinson withheld their identification cards and told them that after they paid off the $600 USD cost for transportation, only then would they be able to get back their identification cards and leave Guyana.
Also before the courts is a Brazilian who has been living in Guyana for the past 11 years. The woman thirty-two-year-old, Christine Rodriguez, who is the owner of the Ola Hotel, which is located at Charlotte Street, is accused of trafficking two Venezuelans for sex and harbouring them for means of labour exploitation.
It is alleged that between November 4 and November 28, last, at Ola Hotel Charlotte Street, Georgetown, while being an employer of two Venezuelans, for the purpose of trafficking, she knowingly confiscated immigration documents belonging to the women. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.
It was further alleged that during that same period, Rodriguez engaged in trafficking of persons by harbouring two Venezuelans by means of abuse of her position, she hired the Venezuelans for means of labour exploitation.
According to the police, Rodriguez hired the women to cook at her hotel and they were being paid $12,000 weekly.
However, when the women requested their travel documents, Rodriguez allegedly refused to hand them over. Hence, they reported the matter.
Meanwhile, a miner was also charged in relation to trafficking of Venezuelan women.
It is alleged between November 4 and November 28 last, Arnold Melville, 50 ,of Eteringbang, Cuyuni River, assisted by receiving and transporting two Venezuelans to Christine Rodriguez, to engage in trafficking them for the purpose of labour exploitation.
Also before the court are a couple and a businesswoman. They are on trial for trafficking three Venezuelans for sexual exploitation.
It was alleged that between November 1 and December 31, 2017, Lawrence Williams recruited, transported and harboured three Venezuelan nationals for sexual exploitation.
His wife, June Williams, was also charged with recruiting, transporting and harbouring three Venezuelan women for sexual exploitation between April 1 and 30, 2018, at Itaki, Mazaruni.
Also, businesswoman Arita Gould also faced a charge for trafficking a Venezuelan woman. The charge alleged that Gould, between May 1 and May 31, 2018, he trafficked a Venezuelan national at Itaki, Mazaruni.
According to information, the couple owns the hotel where the women were all allegedly being held.
But Venezuelan men are also being exploited.
A wildlife expert is accused of trafficking two Venezuelan men to work on his farm.
The court heard that 61-year-old Feezal Shaw, a businessman of 69 Soesdyke Linden Highway, held two Venezuelans against their will and forced them to work on his farm by threatening to report that they are illegally in the country.
With this threat, the defendant allegedly refused to pay the victims the salary they agreed to when they were first employed.
The first charge stated that between February 14 and June 14, last, at Soesdyke, Linden Highway, Shaw engaged in trafficking in persons, in that he recruited, transported and harboured Hector Jose Rodriguez, in that he forced him to work without payment, by making constant threats to have him deported.
It was further alleged that between February 14 and June 14, last, at Soesdyke, Linden Highway, Shaw engaged in trafficking in persons, in that he recruited, transported and harboured Eduardo Zarate Vivas, in that he forced him to work without payment, by making constant threats to have him deported.
Shaw was not required to plead to the indictable charges after they were read to him by the Magistrate.
According to the Prosecutor, on February 14, last, the Venezuelans entered Guyana illegally and on the following day, they were taken to a house at Soesdyke.
The court heard that the victims were told that they would be paid $10,000 for each cage that they built for exotic animals, which the defendant normally exports.
The Prosecutor added that the victims were however forced to work on a farm, where they had to feed and take care of animals.
It was reported that after working for three days on the farm, the Venezuelans complained about the work and they were paid $5,000 each.
It was disclosed to the court that on June 6, last, the victims were each given $100,000 and were promised the remainder of the money, but it was never given to them.
The defendant then took away the victims passports and kept it in his custody.
The matter was then reported, an investigation was then carried out and Shaw was charged for the offence.
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