Vanuatu court sentence Bangladesh nationals for trafficking

Vanuatu Police
PHOTO: Vanuatu Police Service

Four Bangladesh nationals implicated in what has been dubbed the biggest human trafficking case in Vanuatu were sentenced this week, after a four-year court battle.

Sekdah Somon, was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment and VT60, 000 (US$511) fine while his wife Buxoo Nabilah Bibi got 7 years’ imprisonment and a further VT20, 000(US$170) fine. The Court sentenced Anowar Hossain to 6 years and Palas Hosan for 7 years.

Somon, Bibi, Hossain, and Hosan had masterminded and aided with the arrangement to have more than 100 Bangladeshis work in another country, with the promise of well-remunerated employment. Instead they were exploited.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek highlighted Vanuatu’s position on Trafficking and Slavery as he provided reasons for the sentencing. 

“In Vanuatu, the seriousness of trafficking and slavery offending is indicated by the maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment for both offences, making them two of the most serious offences in the legislation after the offences of premeditated homicide and sexual intercourse without consent with a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life,” he said. 

“This reflects Vanuatu’s obligations as part of international efforts to combat these two types of offending, the fulfillment of which is necessary to demonstrate that Vanuatu is doing its part to eliminate exploitative behavior, protect Vanuatu’s international reputation, and most importantly, to reduce the potentially devastating impact of such offending on the lives of victims.”

Last November, the defendants were convicted by the Vanuatu Supreme Court on respective charges of human trafficking, intentional assault, and misinformation.

“Mr Price” was the name of the business that they intended to establish just before the issue caught the attention of the authorities.

The trial took place at Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu on 18 November 2019 and ended on 14 September 2020.

The court heard that for many of the victims, Vanuatu was not their destination. They were promised work in Australia, Cuba, and New Caledonia, along with attractive employment opportunities. They were employed under conditions that were oppressive and worked long hours with little breaks, often under threat of punishment.

The Court will not suspend the respective imprisonment sentences as it reflects the seriousness of the offences and act as a detterent to others.

All sentences will be served concurrently. The VT80, 000(US$682) fine must be paid by Somon and Bibi to the Vanuatu Government Treasury first before the payment of the compensation to the victims.

All sentences will be served concurrently. The VT80, 000(US$682) fine must be paid by Somon and Bibi to the Vanuatu Government Treasury first before the payment of the compensation to the victims.

The defendants have been ordered to pay VT190, 836, 450 (US$1.6 million) as compensation to the 101 victims. They have 14 days to appeal their respective sentences.

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