26 Sep 2019

Bangladeshi men plead not guilty to human trafficking charges in Vanuatu

2:50 pm on 26 September 2019

Four men from Bangladesh have pleaded not guilty in a Vanuatu court to charges that include human trafficking.

Bangladeshi human trafficking victims in Vanuatu

Bangladeshi human trafficking victims in Vanuatu Photo: Supplied

One-hundred and two other men from Bangladesh were allegedly trafficked to the country on the promise of work but were enslaved.

The accused men are Sekdah Somon, Buxoo Nabilah Bibi, Palas Hosan, Anowar Hossain.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the men were also accused of slavery, money laundering and threatening to kill.

One of the accused, Sekdah Somon, is known as the owner of the company Mr Price, for which prosecutors claim the trafficked men were forced to work.

They've since been returned to Bangladesh after being cared for by the International Organisation for Migration and the Vanuatu government.

The accused have reportedly been denied bail more than five times amid fears they may hold other passports and are flight risks.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek praised the public prosecutor for breaking down the offences from 307 to 71 counts on seven charges but called for them to be reduced further.

The public prosecutor Josiah Naigulevu said he had 30 witnesses willing to testify.

The chief executive of local company Digicel is acting as the translator for the accused.

A date for the trial is yet to be set.

Meanwhile, the Mr Price construction project, which faces Port Vila harbour, is available for rent.

RNZ Pacific's Vanuatu correspondent described the one-level, all metal structure as a white elephant.

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