FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

15 July 2013

Liberia Becomes Human Trafficking Hub - Lebanese Duo Groomed Sex 'Slaves'

Yasmi Mohammed has left her sick mother at home in Morocco after promise of a job in Liberia, she agreed to travel far West of Africa to get a better shot at life to care for her sick mother. Yasmi which is not her real name tells police during questioning that she entered Liberia the first week of June, even though she misses the exact date.

She says she was promised a good paying job working in the Moulin Rouge Restaurant on Carey Street in Monrovia for Mr. Anthony Kassabli, 44, and his father Edmund Dib Kassabli, 81 owner of the restaurant.

"It was her boyfriend who made the arrangement with Anthony and told her to come to Liberia to work in a restaurant to be paid every month the amount of US$1, 000. She paid US$100 for her Visa and Anthony paid the plane Ticket and told her to pay back whenever she works," according to the Police Charge sheet in Possession of FrontPageAfrica.

"Upon her arrival in Liberia, suspect Anthony welcomed her at the RIA (Robert International Airport) airport and took her to an unknown place. The Victim further revealed that when she started working, she was informed by Anthony that she was to receive US$1,000 every month and work from 7pm to 7am every day."

Yasmi is among seven women rescued by officers of the Liberia National Police Women and Children Section subjected to sexual slavery by the two men who are Lebanese nationals. The police during search and seizure found a total of sixteen passports in a safe in the office of Mr. Edmund Dib Kassabli at the Caroline Food Fishing Center.

The two men were on Monday July 15, 2013 charged with several crimes including human trafficking and arraigned before the New Kru Town Magisterial Court.

"In view of the above facts gathered and established by the Human Trafficking unit of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police, we resolve to charge Defendants Anthony Kassabli, manager of the Moulin Rouge Bar and Restaurant and Edmund Dib Kassabli , father and owner of the Moulin Rouge Restaurant and Caroline Fishing Center with: Illicit Trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling in violation of section 14.55 sub chapter (a)(iii)(iv)(v) of the act to amend the penal law regarding extortion, environmental crime and illicit trafficking in Human beings and Migrant Smuggling," states the Police charge sheet.

How the web was broken

On July 10, 2013 the SD commander at Metro-1 police station on center street called at 6:00PM to inform his colleagues at the central Headquarters of the Women and children Protection Section (WAPS) that a suspected case of illicit Human Trafficking was reported by a female Habba Kou Fawag, aged 40 Female; a Liberian-Lebanese, National and a resident of Airfield, Sinkor involving both men according to police records.

"Predicated upon this information, a team of officers were dispatched at Metro one to ascertain the merit/s of the case," states the police charge sheet.

Continued the Charge sheet:"While at Metro one police station, preliminary interviews with the two suspected victims revealed that, additional four (4) victims were held in close door at suspect Kassabli's residence in the St. Paul bridge area. Upon receipt of said information, defendant Anthony Kassabli along with the two victims was moved over to WAPS HQ. Efforts immediately made to locate the additional four victims in the in the home of Defendant Anthony Kassabli in the St. Paul Bridge area and were brought over to WAPS central Headquarters at about 9PM."

The police say it then arrested the two suspects at their Sayon Town residence on Friday July, 12, 2013 and brought them to the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police acquainting them with the Miranda rights and investigation commenced in the presence of their lawyers predicated upon the revelation made by Kou Fawag.

Kou Fawag told the Police that all transportation fees of the victims were arranged by Defendant Dib Kassabli and this was confirmed by the victims.

The investigation found that the youngest of the two men who happens to be the son of the eldest man recruited four of the victims, three from Abijan and one from Morocco, transported, harbored and exploited them through labor and sexual services to his customers at the Moulin Rouge Bar and Restaurant for monetary gain.

"Defendant Anthony Kassabli admitted bringing the victims into Liberia to work at his Moulin Rouge Bar and Restaurant on Center Street, Monrovia for better salary and living. He also admitted being in possession of their traveling documents," states the charge sheet.

"The defendant Edmund Dib Kassabli is the owner of the Moulin Rouge Bar and Restaurant located on Center Street, where the victims labor services was exploited, sexually abused against their will;

That the transportation of the victims was sponsored by the Defendant Edmund Dib Kassabli."

Aside from subjecting the victims to sexual exploitation, the men were found to have allegedly restricted the movement of the women. One of the victims said the younger Kassabli forced her and other victims to have sexual intercourse with customers at the bar who usually gave him money for the sexual services. The victim narrated that Kassabli used Liberian immigration officers to take her and six other women passports and also refused to pay her monthly salary in contravention of the agreement entered into with him before their arrival in Liberia.

That the seven (7) victims traveling documents were seized from them by defendant Anthony Kassabli, upon their arrival in Liberia on separate dates and time(March to July) 2013) respectively subjecting them to immense restraint," states the charge sheet.

"That defendant Anthony Kassabli failed to pay the victims the amount promised them;

That defendant Anthony Kassabli, manager of Moulin Rouge restaurant on Center Street, grouped the victims in a single room with little or no facilities at St. Paul Bridge area and subjected them to humiliation and engaged the victims in other form of sexual exploitation and abuse, with no compensation contrary to their agreement; thus subjecting the victims to slavery."

Father in the know

The police investigation reveals that the father and owner of the Moulin Rouge Bar and Restaurant knew what was happening as he was briefed about activities at the business center by his son.

"That every daily activities of the bar and restaurant was reported to the defendant Edmund Dib Kassabli owner of Moulin Rouge Bar and restaurant by defendant Anthony Kassabli, the manager.

That defendant Anthony Kassabli physically assaulted victim, (name removed) on July 3, 2013 at his residence at St. Paul Bridge community which was confirmed by one of the victims."

The police discovered sixteen (16) passports in a safe within the office of Dib Kassabli at the crime scene and of the sixteen passports discovered, four belonged to the following victims, names omitted.

The police also on the charge sheet revealed that two fire arms (Rager speed six and compact C) and Ammunition (59 bullets) were discovered and seized from one of the rooms within defendant Dib Kassabli's residence during the search and seizure exercise. The victims are currently at a YMCA safe home.

It can be recalled that another Lebanese national 43-year-old Jaafar Bashir was charged for his involvement in the raping of young Liberian children within the age range of 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15.

The LNP charged and forwarded Bashir to the Monrovia City Court and that the suspect is currently being detained at the Monrovia Central Prison awaiting court trail.

Bashir was charged for Statutory Rape, endangering Welfare of Children, and Interfering with Child Custody which is in contravention of Section 14.70, 16.4 and 14.53 of the revised penal code of the Republic of Liberia.

Suspect Bashir on several occasions allegedly engaged in inviting under age children as young as six years to his Battery Factory and red-Light, Paynesville residence and sexually abused them while at the same time videotaping his action.

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