CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Apr 10, CMC – The St. Lucia government says it will launch an independent inquiry into the Lam¬birds Academy, following allegations of human trafficking.
A Government Information Service (GIS) statement quoted Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony as saying that ““the Cabinet of Ministers had already taken a decision to conduct an independent inquiry into the matter.
“The inquiry will determine, among other things, how the investors were granted approval, how the students arrived on island and what arrangements were made for their studies and welfare,” the statement said.
Anthony however cautioned that the inquiry cannot compromise ongoing investigations by the police, or the filing of charges by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“It is not for the Government to make decisions about how the interests of the students will be represented in a court of law, in a criminal matter. It is for the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether all of the students can return to their homeland, or whether some can return, while others remain to testify.”
President and chief executive officer of Lambirds Academy Dr. Iftekhar Shams of Bangladesh and three Indian nationals have been arrested and pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and human trafficking in the alleged scam that lured at least 70 students mainly from Nepal and the Philippines, with promises of all inclusive boarding, an education and job placement overseas.
The government statement said that the institution was closed on February 27 and that over the past month, it has been providing accommodation and meals for 28 individuals at the Archbishop Kelvin Felix Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre.
The students claimed that they paid at least US$9,000 each to an agent from their region to secure a place at Lambirds Academy and the managing director of the Nepalese-based Excellent International Education Institute, Pavel Kumar Shah, has called on the St Lucia government to provide alternative educational opportunities for the students who are stranded here.
“I want to request of the government that, if the Academy is legal let our students study there, if it’s illegal go for the refund, or settle them in any other college or university and request arrangements of lodging and food for them as their pocket money is already finished. Our students won’t be back without refunding,” Shah said in a statement.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has called for an independent investigation into the matter hinting at the possibility of official corruption into the matter.