Hinds calls out critics after police capture human trafficking convict

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Convicted sex trafficker Anthony Smith. – Photo courtesy TTPS

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says convicted human trafficker Anthony Smith was hiding in Trinidad and Tobago since absconding from his trial last year.

Smith, who has been on the run for five months, was recaptured in Kelly Village in Caroni on February 11.

North Central Division police conducted surveillance operations on a woman known to Smith, who eventually led officers to a location where Smith was found and arrested along with the woman.

Smith was Trinidad and Tobago’s first conviction in human trafficking but absconded weeks before he was found guilty and sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.

Speaking with the media at South Quay during a walkabout in Port of Spain on Carnival Tuesday, Hinds said he was happy about Smith’s capture and praised the TT Police Service (TTPS) for their work.

“The police, following intelligence patterns, were able to locate him because we told you, when he escaped the proceedings, we were searching locally, regionally and abroad. It turns out that he was hiding here locally.”

In September 2023, less than a week into his trial, officials from the Ministry of National Security’s Electronic Monitoring Unit received an alarm indicating Smith’s electronic ankle monitoring device was being tampered with.

Police went to Smith’s home but he was nowhere to be found.

Judge Geoffrey Henderson ruled that the trial should still proceed, and Smith was eventually found guilty on five charges, including the human trafficking of a minor for sexual exploitation.

After the guilty verdict, Hinds held a press conference to announce that Trinidad and Tobago had achieved its first-ever human trafficking conviction but was criticised when he also revealed that Smith had absconded.

On Tuesday, Hinds called on his critics to also speak about Smith’s recapture.

“Those who celebrated his escape in order to brand the state as ineffectual, I would like to hear their comments this morning because I knew, as I told them, it was only a matter of time.

“The police had been constantly on this since then, and it came to very positive fruition.”

Deputy director of the ministry’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), Dane Marie Marshall, was instrumental in Smith’s arrest and conviction.

She told Newsday on February 12 the news of Smith’s arrest was proof the TTPS is working quietly to bring people to justice.

She said with other human trafficking cases set to come before the court, Smith’s capture should motivate officers at the CTU and boost their confidence.

“We have matters that are to be heard in the first quarter of this year, and we expect the same results moving forward.

“This would just give the officers that level of motivation that we can continue to bring convictions and safely ground Trinidad and Tobago properly when it comes to how we respond to trafficking in persons.”

Smith is expected to also face charges for absconding while on bail.