It will come as no surprise to resident Saint Lucians that, despite the bad publicity the Lambirds Affair has received locally and on the Internet, not to say the social media commentaries, the man most citizens would like to hear from remains invisible and mute on the issue.
Sad to say, the demonstrated contempt is typical of our education minister who has more than once stated on TV that certain matters are to be handled by underlings at his ministry.
On Friday, February 27, six individuals associated with Lambirds Academy, with locations in Gros Islet and Rodney Bay, were held for questioning by police. Four (all Indian nationals) of the six were later charged with human trafficking.
It is alleged that the four men lured several students here from India and Nepal with false promises of jobs-jobs-jobs while they undertook studies, as well as assurances of visas and a gateway to Europe. Later, the police charged one of the four with money laundering. All the accused deny the charges.
Two of the six originally held for questioning are Saint Lucians, one with alleged close connections with the government and the local judiciary via her former husband. The particular individual allegedly facilitated the transition of the students from their points of origin.
On Wednesday March 11 the accused made another appearance at the Gros Islet magistrate’s district court. They were expected to enter into case management. It was then that Iftekhar Shams of Bonne Terre, the director of Lambirds Academy and one of the men charged, broke his silence and spoke to the press.
“We are totally innocent,” Shams said before entering the courtroom. “I came here as an investor. Invest Saint Lucia invited me, got me my visa and helped me to get all the licenses. Now I do not know what to say.”
Shams added: “The prime minister, deputy prime minister, minister of education, minister of commerce, they help me to get all the licenses. We are a legitimate academy.”
On the money-laundering subject he told reporters that the sum in question was simply being transferred to one of the Lambirds academies in the United States. He also alleges that the school would have still been operational here, had it not
been for the police barring students from entering the building.
As earlier noted, efforts to reach the Ministry of Education and Invest Saint Lucia for comment have been futile.