Alleged Human Traffickers Charged and Released

April 16, 2010

The three men and one woman arrested Saturday in connection with allegedly using 36 Asians as slave labor at a Costa Rican fishing company were released without bail or other preventive measures Sunday night by the

Puntarenas Penal Court

.

The 36 people alleged to have been enslaved, consisting of 15 Vietnamese, 13 Indonesians, five Filipinos, two Taiwanese and a Chinese, were overworked and lived in crowded inhuman conditions, receiving no pay, whippings and little food, according to Costa Rican police sources.

Investigations by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) also determined that the men had worked for two years on the ships with no payment, although their employers, who had confiscated the workers’ passports, claimed to have sent $250 per month to each of their families.

Saturday night saw the culmination of a four-month OIJ investigation twith the arrests of two employees of last names Espinoza and Wang, and a brother and sister by the last name of Tseng who are respectively the president and the treasurer of Imperio Pesquero del Pacífico S.A., a company registered with the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER), the daily La Nación reported. The three Taiwanese and one Costa Rican were charged with human trafficking, which in Costa Rica carries a prison sentence of eight to 16 years.

According to Osvaldo Henderson, assistant public prosecutor for organized crime, whose unit will appeal the Puntarenas court decision, this is the first time since the creation of his unit last year that actions have been taken against a group linked to human trafficking, La Nación reported.

OIJ Director Jorge Rojas, confirmed in his report that “(The workers) were in completely unsanitary, inhumane, overcrowded conditions.” The rescued crew-members will remain in custody of the Immigration Department until they are returned to their countries in a few weeks or apply for refugee status.

The United Nations estimates that, worldwide, human trafficking brings $9.5 billion in profits annually. According to a June 2009 U.S. State Department report on human trafficking, “to an increasing extent, Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked into forced labor, particularly in agriculture, construction, restaurant work, the fishing industry, and as domestic servants.”

–Sophia Klempner

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