Orlando Charles, the pilot and businessman charged with 16 counts of human trafficking, has been arraigned virtually beforeBartica Magistrate Christel Lambert on Thursday.
The 45-year-old Charles, of 45 Main Street, Georgetown, has pleaded not guilty to these charges of human trafficking, contrary to Section 3(1)(i) of the Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act No. 2 of 2005.
Police have said that between November 1, 2022 and May 18, 2023, Charles trafficked 16 Venezuelan nationals between Mazaruni riverine communities in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Georgetown.
Charles has been placed on bail in the sum of $1.3 million on condition that he lodges his passport with the Clerk of Court at the Bartica Magistrate’s Court, and the matters have been adjourned until June 14 for disclosure of statements.
The allegations against this businessman have been investigated by the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters.
Following that investigation, legal advice was given by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for Charles to be charged with 16 counts of Trafficking in Persons.
Charles was arraigned days after the Police had issued a wanted bulletin for him.
Shortly after, he issued a statement in which he claimed, among other things, that an issue had arisen between him and the foreign nationals over the payment of wages.
“I am a pilot and businessman with various construction projects countrywide. A dispute (arose) over wages with 30 persons who were either employed by me or awaiting the availability of more work with my business so they can be employed. I had nothing to do with bringing them into Guyana, nor controlling their movement or where they were employed.”
He continued, “Indeed, a dispute arose with some of them over wages, and I agreed to resolve the matter to our mutual agreement, and some of the persons readily accepted the settlement while others wanted more money. The discussions with the latter are ongoing, and a reckoning was taking place. [I] will defend myself vigorously against these charges.”
Meanwhile, the Guyana Police Force’s TIP Unit, in efforts to combat trafficking in persons, assured that it will continue to work with other stakeholders to conduct intelligence-led operations, spot inspections, awareness, and training in every region of Guyana.