Lambirds Accused Remanded In Custody
On Friday June 26 the men accused in what has become known here as the Lambirds Academy Affair appeared before the magistrates Court in Gros Islet. The men who came to Saint Lucia from India and Asia last year to establish a learning academy were charged in March of this year with human trafficking and money laundering.
On Friday the indictable charges of human trafficking and money laundering were read to the defendants, among them Lambirds Chief Executive Officer Dr. Iftekhar Shams who looked quite frail.
All of the defendants, including Kumar Batukbhai Chadasama, Ashwin Kanji Patel, and Gurjeet Singh Vilkhu, pleaded not guilty. Representing the defence is Marcus Foster who came on Friday to move the case beyond just case management. However, the prosecution pushed for an adjournment in the money laundering matter. According
Disability and Discrimination (Cerebral Palsy) to the lead Counsel, they were still prepared to press forward with the human trafficking offences.
Instead the magistrate allowed for both indictments to be heard at a later date. The human trafficking and forgery charges trial is set to commence July 29 at the Castries Court while the money laundering trial begins on August 12 at the Gros Islet Court.
Marcus Foster, who appeared to have come in fully prepared for the proceedings to move forward, questioned the lack of preparedness of the prosecution whom he said had been awaiting documents since 29th May. There was also the question of extracts and exchanges between the local AG’s office and the AG’s office in the United States, of files pertinent to the matter.
Foster spoke to reporters after the adjournment saying that the lack of preparedness by the prosecution, as well as the ongoing repairs to the High Court in Castries, was hampering the trial moving forward speedily. He also spoke on the question of Dr. Shams’ health saying his client was quite ill. “The situation with Dr. Shams is that this month is the holy month of Ramadan and he has to fast during the day. The unfortunate thing is that feeding stops after three (at the prison) and so after he fasts he really cannot get anything to eat,” Foster explained. “And so he has diminished quite a bit, as you can see.” The lawyer also told reporters that Shams is hypertensive and a diabetic.
Marcus Foster continues to speak to reporters on the ongoing Lambirds case despite being cautioned by the DPP recently.
A dejected Dr. Shams outside the Gros Islet
Court on Friday.