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Businessman freed of human trafficking charges

Businessman  freed of human trafficking charges

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When Adrian Deane linked up with two Jamaicans who boasted of having superior baking skills and management capabilities, he thought they would have been a boost to his bakery business.

But what Deane got was the complete opposite to what he had hoped for. And to compound the situation, when he tried to end his association with the couple, the 61-year-old Brighton resident ended up being the first {{more}}person to be charged here under the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011.

The case against Deane was thrown out by the Serious Offences Court, last Thursday, April 7, but the five months during which the charge hung over him, according to the businessman, “felt like a vice grip closing in on my head.”

On Monday, Deane, speaking to SEARCH-LIGHT­­ from his Farmer’s Market Bakery and Snackette at Arnos Vale, said that the journey to his misery with the Jamaicans started back in 2012, when an employee at the bakery visited the Cayman Islands and met Dervant Clarke, a Jamaican man, who claimed to be a top baker and the manager of a bakery associated with a chain of supermarkets that had five branches.

During the conversation, Clarke expressed his desire to travel abroad and Deane’s employee told Clarke about Deane’s desire to attract bakers with international baking experience, talent and expertise.

After speaking with Clarke off and on for two years, Deane said in 2014, the Jamaican man called to say that he was still interested and he was ready to come, along with his girlfriend Jacqueline Palmer.

The Jamaicans came to St Vincent and the Grenadines in May 2014 and stayed with Deane for five days, during which he showed them around the country and introduced them to his workers, letting them know there was a possibility that they would become part of the establishment, so that they could launch a new line of products.

The businessman said that everyone was excited because of the way the duo described themselves. He said that Palmer was not part of the initial plan, but she said that she was a deli manager and that Clarke would not take the job unless the two of them were hired.

He said that when he spoke further to the duo, they quoted their salaries in the Cayman Islands and he began to wonder why the two would leave such a lucrative career in the Cayman Islands to come to an EC$50 a day establishment.

“They said that they were looking for a change and that St Vincent was the nicest and closest thing to Jamaica and we seem like lovely people,” remembers Deane.

He said that the duo left and he never heard from them until one year later, at which point they said they were ready to come, but they were having problems with their air fare. Deane said that he paid the money for the tickets, with the understanding that he would be repaid.

Deane said Palmer then called and asked about bringing all their belongings from the Cayman Islands, as well as her son, who lived in Jamaica.

Deane said that he encouraged them to store their belongings in the Cayman Islands until they were fully settled in SVG, but Palmer stressed that they wanted to bring their stuff. He said that he was also against Palmer’s son coming.

When the items arrived at the Customs, the Jamaicans could not afford to pay the duties, so Deane paid and stored the items in his car port.

After the Jamaicans were settled, Deane said that is when the problems began.

“This woman have a spirit; she want to rule everything and rule everybody and she quick to raise up she voice,” explained Deane, who added that in the six to eight weeks in which they were waiting for their work permits, the “true character of these people start coming out in the business and I never seen more confusion in the couple of weeks; it’s like somebody landed you in hell, with nothing but demonic forces around you.”

Deane said that Palmer began to find fault with the employees, some justified, but most not worth complaining about, as some of the things Palmer saw as wrong, she herself was guilty of.

Things got even worse, as according to Deane, although he makes over 60 different types of product at his establishment, the Jamaicans claimed they did not eat what he made, they didn’t drink tap water, nor did they eat certain types of food.

Deane said that he supplied them with whatever they wanted, including buying bottled water.

“They were catered to hand and feet, every little peeve, every little thing, I tried to humble myself and make them as comfortable as possible, but then we saw resentment because of her attitude and her behind your back style. She was the devil in the whole thing; the gentleman himself seem to be a quiet person, but controlled by her,” said Deane, who noted that their presence created “an atmosphere of discontentment.”

Deane said he finally told Clarke that in light of all the issues, he would be seeking to end the arrangement. He said that didn’t sit well with the duo and during a heightened argument, he alleged that Clarke pulled a cutlass.

The businessman said he reported that incident to the police, after which he moved the Jamaicans into the Macedonia Rock Guest House and provided daily meals and everything they requested, pending their departure from the country.

But according to Deane, one day, he went to the guest house to take their food and Clarke apologized for what had transpired and asked for a second chance. He said that he asked his wife and she supported his decision to give them a second chance.

Deane said during the time Clarke worked with him, he suspected that the Jamaican man did not have the baking skills he claimed to have, as he would take an extremely long time to open a sack of flour and could not even place a cost on an item he baked. Deane said that Clarke could not consistently measure an item and at times a pastry would weigh four ounces and at another time that same type of pastry would be eight ounces.

Deane said that he would pay Clarke EC$650, Palmer EC$600 and Palmer’s son Jolani Thompson EC$540 a fortnight to work at the bakery. He said that Palmer would spend huge sums of money on food and other items and they ended up not being able to pay the rent at an apartment at Brighton he had moved them to, for which he had paid the first and last month’s rent.

Deane noted that apart from the rent and food, he also paid medical expenses for Palmer (dentist) and her son (eye specialist).

“We were looking after these people hand and foot, catering to their every whim,” said Deane, who added that the Jamaicans complained that their pay was not enough, so he came to a decision that the arrangement was not working and they agreed.

He said that he put everything in writing and agreed to pay for airline tickets and the shipping of the Jamaicans’ personal items, but Palmer “freaked out” when the process that would take them back to Jamaica seemed to be moving too fast for her.

Deane said that on approaching Palmer, she cursed him, so he went to get the police, but that backfired and he was charged with three counts of engaging in trafficking in persons between May 11 and September 30. He was charged under Section 5, sub-section 1 of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011.

“CID calls me and told me that some people made accusations against me and they would like to hear my side of the story, so I went, not knowing what I was going into and I was led into the office of Ruth Jacobs and she asked if I brought a lawyer and I said no, and she asked for a statement and then I said I would need a lawyer,” said Deane, who claims that after giving his statement, he was told that he was being charged, even though he had spent approximately EC$30,000 during the whole process of taking care of the Jamaicans.

Last Thursday, the prosecution withdrew the case, after only two witnesses — Clarke and head of the CID Ruth Jacobs — had given evidence.

Deane said that he thinks that he was charged with human trafficking so that St Vincent and the Grenadines could show the United States that SVG was doing something about human trafficking. He revealed that he received a number of phone calls from people overseas showing solidarity with him and expressing concerns that he was being used a scapegoat.

“Two things that I would like to convey to the public during this whole ordeal is that I found a place of refuge in Jesus, so that I could maintain my sanity. It is not easy having to live your life, run your business and look after your family and have something constantly on your head. I started questioning myself, asking God what have I done wrong,” said Deane, who added that he heard Jesus’s voice saying, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life and the truth shall set you free.”

He said that lo and behold, when they got to the court room, the case was thrown out.

Deane said that he would like to publicly thank lawyer Grant Connell, “for his contribution to my vindication.”

“I don’t know why the police did not investigate everything before they made an arrest,” said Deane, who has now settled back into his business and is seeking to further build his operation.

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