'No strong suspicions' Chinese man found in grow house was trafficking victim, Gardaí claim
The head of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) has "no strong suspicion" that a Chinese man found in a cannabis grow house was a victim of human trafficking, the High Court heard.
Det Chief Supt John O'Driscoll said he believed the 36-year-old, who was found in a grow house containing cannabis allegedly worth an estimated €1m, was claiming he is a trafficking victim "simply because of the circumstances in which he was found."
The officer was giving evidence in opposing an application by the man, a peasant farmer from Fu Jian province, to be released from prison where he is being held on drug charges related to the his arrest in the grow house in Henrietta Place, Dublin, on November 20 last year.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan is hearing evidence in advance of a court inquiry into legality of his detention in circumstances where it is alleged that as a victim of people trafficking his continued detention is re-victimising him in breach of his constitutional and human rights. The hearing was adjourned until next week.
The man has been in custody since his arrest because he has no documents and no ability to raise money for bail, the court heard.
He cannot be named as he may be a victim of trafficking.
The State disagrees he is a victim of trafficking on a number of grounds, including that when he was found in the grow house, he was free to come and go, had internet access and was in possession of an Iphone 4, which had photos of him on it including one of him with his arm around a garda in Dublin.
He claims he was forced by traffickers to leave his home in 2011, after his father borrowed around €20,000 from a money lender and trafficker, known as a "snakehead". The money was for a coalmine investment which went wrong. He was told that unless he travelled abroad to pay back the debt "people would die"
He says he was brought to Hong Kong, along with several others, and trafficked into Ireland in what he called a terrifying journey over a number of months.
He was never allowed possession of his own travel documents and was always accompanied by a trafficker who told him failure to co-operate would result in severe harm for him and his family.
He arrived by plane in Ireland and was met by two middle-aged, aggressive looking men, known only by nicknames. He says he was sent to work in Chinese restaurants and as he did not have any English, and could not read or write in that language, he did not know where the restaurants were.
He was working for about two weeks before his arrest in the grow house. He was led to believe he was tending tea plants, he told gardai.
Yesterday, Fergal Kavanagh SC, for the man, said around 200 people in the last three years were known to have been trafficked into Ireland, some of them are still in jail serving sentences or awaiting trial while others have done their time and sent back to their own countries.
Det Chief Supt O'Driscoll, who was one of the founding officers of the GNIB in 2000, disagreed with Mr Kavanagh that the circumstances in which his (Kavanagh's) client was found met most of the established criteria for assessing a person had been trafficked. These included that he came from a province which is well known for its trafficking gangs, counsel said.
DCS O'Driscoll said the entire circumstances and the information that an alleged victim gives to gardai has to be taken into account in deciding whether a person is a victim. In this case, the more inquiries the gardai made to check the veracity of what they were told, "the further we move away from the truth".
He disagreed that this case was similar to trafficked women found in brothels who have access to mobile phones and computers, and can be free to come and go, but are effectively being held by "invisible chains".