The long-awaited trial of the human trafficking case associated with the Lambirds Academy scandal got underway on Tuesday this week, before Senior Magistrate Fulcher. The magistrate decided to proceed with the trial despite the no-show of defense lawyers. The case had been adjourned on countless occasions to facilitate defense requests. One witness gave evidence on Tuesday and was cross-examined the following day by the defendants. Several other witnesses are due to testify. The trial continues on Wednesday next week.
The backstory: there were three sets of charges coming out of this Lambirds matter: money laundering; obtaining property by deception; and human trafficking. The money laundering cases were dismissed by Magistrate Moise on the basis the trial did not commence within 180 days as required by The Criminal Procedure Rule. The magistrate’s decision was appealed by the office of the DPP. This appeal has not been heard.
The obtaining property by deception cases are indictable matters to be heard by the high court. Those cases have started at sufficiency hearing before a master in the high court. The role of the master is to examine the evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send the matter to trial. The other charges were sent from a magistrate’s court to high court and have not been heard of again.
As for the students involved in the cases, most of them from India and the Philippines, several have returned home after hanging around idly for over a year, among them witnesses under the protection of the previous government.