Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – A pregnant woman and eight other individuals, including a breastfeeding mother, have been remanded in custody at the Male and Female Correctional Centres in Freetown on allegations of human trafficking.
The nine accused persons appeared in court to answer eight charges, including human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Police allegations indicate that between September 1, 2022, and October 31, 2022, the accused individuals obtained money from five people, purportedly to facilitate their travel from Sierra Leone to Qatar.
In the prosecution’s opening statement, Arun Jalloh led the testimony of Musa Sheku Bangura, a resident of Kambia District.
Bangura revealed that he received a call from Fatmata, the sixth accused in the case and an old schoolmate. Fatmata informed him about a travel program to Qatar, where she had previously worked. She claimed to have secured a job at a hotel in Qatar and needed to employ seven people to work during the FIFA World Cup.
Fatmata advised him to sell his father’s cattle and other farm produce to raise fifteen million Leones for each person’s ticket and passport to travel to Qatar. Bangura, along with four of his siblings, managed to raise a total of seventy-five million Old Leones for their trip by selling their father’s land and farm produce.
He was given Abu Bakarr’s contract number, who served as Fatmata’s agent and was the fourth accused in the case. After contacting Abu Bakarr, he directed Bangura to Devil Hole in Waterloo, where he would be transported to their Waterloo office.
Upon arrival in Freetown, Bangura and his siblings were received by Taylor, the first accused, and the third accused. They were taken to an office where many people were working on computers.
Bangura disclosed that he handed the money to the seventh accused, who asked the sixth and seventh accused to count it. After confirming that it was complete, Bangura explained that they were informed by the manager, the fourth accused, that five people had paid for their travel to Qatar. They were instructed to begin classes the following day on how to conduct themselves during the flight and in Qatar.
After several days of taking classes, Bangura became concerned when he didn’t receive his passport or visa. He asked the manager for his documents, and the manager assured him they would travel soon. Their phones were confiscated, and Bangura was given a form to fill out, with his photograph taken for his passport. He was separated from his siblings, and two men were assigned to monitor his movements.
Frustrated with his situation, Bangura managed to escape one day and borrowed a phone to contact his father, explaining the conditions he was facing. Following the call, police officers arrived with his uncle and arrested the accused persons. They were all taken to the police station, where Bangura provided statements to the police.
During cross-examination led by Pious Sesay, Bangura confirmed that he made statements at the Dibya Water Police Station. Sesay applied for Bangura’s statements at the station to be tendered in court. Jalloh objected, but Justice Fisher granted the tendering of the statement.
Bangura mentioned that the seventh accused was the only one he saw being arrested that day. He clarified that he paid the accused persons to travel to Qatar, not to the United States of America. He stated that his personal information, including his name, date of birth, destination country, next of kin, and desired job, was collected by the accused individuals at their office.
Bangura denied signing any Q-net document and claimed that the document was merely shown to him without giving him the opportunity to read it.
Bail was denied to the fifth accused, a lactating mother, and the sixth accused, a pregnant woman. The matter was adjourned to October 19, 2023. SEG/18/10/2023