Human Rights International (HRI) has asserted in a letter to Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, that Lambirds Academy CEO, Doctor Iftekhar Shams and his three co-defendants are innocent.
The four are facing charges of human trafficking.
Shams had two other charges against him dropped.
In a February 22, 2017 letter to Prime Minister Chastanet, Barrister Monwar Hossain, the HRI Secretary General, said the international human rights group is yet to fathom and the Saint Lucian Government to find out, the reason for the accusations against Shams and his colleagues.
Hossain’s letter named a number of local officials and police officers.
The letter said they had brought ‘huge’ shame and expense on Saint Lucia by pursuing the Lambirds case which has seen 45 adjournments.
The letter urged Chastanet to ask the named individuals for an explanation.
According to the HRI letter, the organization believes that Doctor Shams came here in 2014 at the invitation of Invest Saint Lucia, having long wanted to establish a worldwide chain of training institutes.
HRI expressed the view that the warm welcome from the Government, Invest Saint Lucia and the attractive Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), made Shams decide to start with a Cooking and Hospitality training institute.
HRI is of the view that the initiative could have easily added $3.2M (US) to the Saint Lucian foreign currency reserve annually in its initial years, the letter indicated.
It noted that Shams invested more than what was required by the higher investment threshold for the CIP Programme at that time in two campuses and two training restaurants.
According to the HRI letter, in January of 2015, students started flying in and classes started.
It observed that the students were vetted and visas were approved by the Saint Lucia Immigration office.
“They came in through international airports crossing those immigrations, came with genuine Saint Lucian Visa, interviewed by the Immigration Officer at the Saint Lucia Airport again, welcomed by the Institute Representative and then taken to their initial accommodation arranged by the Institute,” the letter observed.
HRI stated that the students were attending school when the Lambirds Academy saga happened.
“Just because two students at the time of the raid were in the practical training class in the restaurant taking the cooking lessons, RSLPF came up with the brilliant idea of charging Dr. Shams with Human Trafficking. Can you fit the situation in any way even remotely close to Human Trafficking?” The letter said.
The HRI letter to the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia expressed concern about the pace of the Lambirds Academy trial, the continued incarceration of three co-defendants and the safety of Doctor Shams in the face of what was described as frivolous lawsuits that do not have any basis, substance or proof.
The organization stressed that it would appeal to the Privy Council if needed to prove the innocence of Shams and his co-defendants.