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Human Smuggling or Human Trafficking?

Police continue to investigate the human smuggling incident that saw six persons detained including 4 Honduran nationals and two Belizeans; a Social Worker and the husband of an immigration officer.  Initially we reported that it was a case of human trafficking but officials have since clarified the report, saying it is human smuggling.  The Orange Walk Police had a joint operation with Ladyville Police where they intercepted two vehicles, heading north on the Philip Goldson Highway. The two drivers were identified as Sergio Guerra, a social worker and Edwin Naj, the husband of an immigration officer stationed in Belize City.  At today’s press brief, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Joseph Myvett briefly spoke on the progress of the investigation.

ACP Joseph Myvett – Head National Crimes Investigation Branch: “During the operation, the police first intercepted the Toyota Corolla Car where there were five occupants: two females and three males. In continuing the operation  police erected a checkpoint on the Crooked Tree Road where the Ford Escape was stopped and at the time it was driven by one Edwin Nah forty years of a Benque Viejo Town address. Accompanying him were two Honduran male adults and two minors, during the investigation one more person was taken into custody who was in the immediate area: one Sergio Guerra thirty-five years Human Services Employee as part of the investigation. They have since been detained and so far we know that Immigration related charges for facilitating the commission of an immigration offense has been levied against those two persons whilst the others remain in custody pending the ongoing investigation.”

Also speaking on the matter was the attorney for the two Belizeans, Hurl Hamilton.  Our Court Reporter caught up with him outside the Belize City Magistrate’s Court earlier today.

Hurl Hamilton – Attorney: “Five of my clients have been charged today and they have been charged with facilitating the commission of an offense. Their names are Enrique Morales, Edwin Arevano, Necia Gomez, Juana Arevano and Felicito Galvez. Yesterday two were charged for the same offense, that would have been Sergio Guerra and Edwin. I want to make it clear, these seven individuals including the two from yesterday, they are not charged under the Trafficking Persons Act you know. They are charged for Immigration offenses so it has nothing to do with the trafficking of persons. Facilitating the commission of an offense, what is the offense? We don’t know. What is the offense? So it is premature. I don’t want to get too much into it but in my humble view, my respectful view it has to be attached to an offense facilitating what? We don’t know. As a matter of fact, we don’t even have a fact sheet to say well there is some sort of cogency or lack therefore of any evidence so I am at a loss. What offense? I don’t know quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine. I don’t know what the prosecution has, it is premature at this stage, it is in very embryonic stages but we are going to find out shortly. We are going to come back on the 17th of September where we are to get full disclosure and then we move from there. All five of them are Belizean Nationals, two from yesterday are Belizean Nationals as well. They have gotten bail at the sum of $3000 plus one surety in the same amount, each one of them.

According to police, they have records of the social worker and prior offences but it is a case that will need much more work for a thorough prosecution.////