On Friday February 27, 2015 the Royal St. Lucia Police Force confirmed the arrest of several individuals in the north of the island in connection with an Internet scam targeting Asian nationals who were to attend the Lambirds Academy in Gros Islet.
Notwithstanding the police actions in this case there had been a deafening silence by authorities from government Ministries who had responsibility for the issuance of licenses and other authorizations for Lambirds Academy to operate in Saint Lucia. There continued to be a grave concern by Saint Lucians about the potential negative repercussions to the island’s credibility because of this scandal. Numerous documents were presented by those arrested to prove their legitimacy in obtaining the necessary authorization to operate.
In the continuing police investigations the offices of a number high ranking government officials were searched including the offices of Invest Saint Lucia where a confrontation ensued between police and the CEO who refused to hand over a computer which he deemed to be irrelevant to the case.
Two years later there has been a mediated resolution in this case between the owners of Lambirds Academy and the Nepalese, Indian, and Philippine students. Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Daasrean Greene said the matter was settled through mediation. However the figure at the center of this scandal, CEO Dr. Iftekhar Shams, still faces human trafficking charges.
Through numerous court cases, public denouncement, and demonstrations from the students, it is reported the students have all been fully reimbursed. Students who spoke to the press have stated they paid US$9,000 for tuition, and US$13,000 for travel to Saint Lucia.
Many Saint Lucians reached out to help the students who had run out of money and they were eventually taken in by the Catholic Church at the Pastoral Center in Marisule, Gros Islet.
“We will kill ourselves in front of Immigration”
One year later, in 2015, because of the countless court cases and almost no resolution in sight, and with the then government’s attempts to repatriate the students before a resolution was reached, threats or mass suicide were made. The students claimed that many of their families had taken loans to finance their studies and it would be a shame to return home as failures. At one point the United Nations International Organization of Migration was assisting the government in arranging the return of affected students to their countries of origin.
MBC Television reported at the time:-