Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:46 am Post subject: Mumtaz Ladha Human Trafficking Trial
Canadian Mumtaz Ladha who allegedly brought a young African woman into Canada under false pretenses and forced her into domestic slavery was arrested and released. Among other things, she is accused of taking away her accuser’s passport once she landed in Canada. Police say Ladha forced the timid looking woman into demeaning servitude, which included hand-washing the underwear of everyone in the house, hand-washing the cars of guests, and eating table scraps to survive. She was only allowed to sleep once everyone else in the house had gone to bed. The maid eventually escaped to a woman’s shelter in June 2009, where she received immediate assistance and the RCMP were notified.
‘Every night was a nightmare for me,' says woman acquitted of enslaving maid
Mumtaz Ladha was acquitted in 2013 after judge said alleged victim couldn’t be believed
By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun February 23, 2015
METRO VANCOUVER — Mumtaz Ladha cries as she recalls sitting in a Supreme Court prisoner’s box, listening to a former friend testify that she had been enslaved, starved and generally mistreated in the accused’s home.
It was difficult to listen to the testimony, which Ladha insists was all lies, and even more troubling to face the possibility of conviction during the 22-day trial in 2013.
“Every night was a nightmare for me. I couldn’t sleep all those 22 days. We didn’t know what the verdict would be,” Ladha said as she wept in a recent interview.
“It was very hard for my husband. … My daughter was pregnant and lost the baby during the trial. My son had to leave his job to come here and be with me to give me all the support I needed. (My other daughter) was already in depression.”
At the end of the trial, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon acquitted Ladha, rejecting the complainant, a young Tanzanian woman, as an unreliable witness and ruling she had motivation to lie — to apply to stay in Canada as a victim of human trafficking.
Instead, Fenlon believed Ladha’s story of meeting the complainant in Africa, where Ladha’s family has businesses, and offering to bring the 21-year-old woman to Canada for a visit.
The Crown did not appeal.
But the acquittal came two and a half years after police announced her arrest for enslaving the Tanzanian woman, and imprisoning her with little more than table scraps to eat.
The damage to her reputation could not be undone, Ladha says in a civil suit filed Monday against the federal and provincial governments.
“Hell on earth — it has been very, very hard for us, the whole family. Even after I had been acquitted, it is very, very difficult to get over,” Ladha said. “I don’t see, in a long time, how we are going to get back to our normal lives.”
Before the criminal charges were laid in May 2011, Ladha and her husband ran several successful companies in Africa, were active in their Ismaili faith, generously donated to charities, and raised their three children in a $5-million West Vancouver home.
After the charges were laid in 2011, most of the businesses collapsed, she said, partly because banks and other investors shunned the Ladhas. They eventually sold their home to pay for legal expenses and other bills.
They were also harshly judged within their community. A death threat was left at their home, when Ladha’s grandchildren were playing inside, she said.
Their daughter Zahra, who had her PhD and was a marketing professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, was fired by her other employer, the health company Medela. Now the three Ladha children, all of them professionals, are working abroad, choosing to leave Canada due to the scandal.
All five adults in the Ladha family are listed as plaintiffs in the civil suit.
Ladha’s lawyer, David Martin, alleges in the suit the RCMP had “tunnel vision” because the force wanted to get a rare human trafficking conviction.
He alleged that officers ignored mounting evidence that challenged the credibility of the complainant, whose name is still protected by a publication ban and who was known only as M.H. in court.
“It’s really outrageous that police continued to press these charges as (the complainant’s) story fell apart,” Martin said.
For example, he said, M.H. initially told police she was imprisoned in Ladha’s home, forced to work up to 18 hours a day unpaid, and unable to communicate with the outside world. However, police later learned she had a cellphone that she frequently used, including to send text messages to Ladha calling her “mother.”
It was later discovered the Ladhas went on multiple business trips during the six months M.H. lived with them, leaving her alone to do as she pleased. And M.H. also eventually admitted going to parties with the Ladhas, out to restaurants and on vacation to Whistler.
“How does somebody who says they were starved and kept as a captive and wasn’t able to communicate with the outside world, how can they be believed when they then admit they have a telephone, went out to restaurants, and to prestigious dinner parties?” Martin asked.
The lawsuit alleges the RCMP pursued the case because the U.S. was pressuring Canada to improve on the “dearth” of human trafficking convictions, quoting documents posted on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The documents show that in September 2009, three months after police started investigating M.H.’s claims, the lead officer in the case told American officials the RCMP was looking for a human trafficking case “with a bow on it” that prosecutors could use as precedent in this little-used area of the law.
This lead officer, Const. Caroline Raymond, said she had one such case of “forced labour and domestic servitude resulting in the near starvation of the victim,” and that an arrest would be imminent, according to WikiLeaks.
“A terrible wrong has occurred here,” Martin said. “The RCMP generally get things right. Sometimes they make mistakes. But in this case the evidence will show that they were captivated by an institutional hubris and responded to some political pressure from outside forces. And they brought charges to Mrs. Ladha that caused enormous damage.
“It really could happen to anybody.”
Martin recently represented another entrepreneur who was wrongly accused and sued the federal government, settling out of court for an undisclosed figure that is reportedly in the millions of dollars.
“The damage that’s been done to Mrs. Ladha warrants significant legal judgments issued to her in the millions of dollars,” he said.
The RCMP declined to comment Monday, saying its response would be filed in court.
Her legal fees were more than $500,000, and during the trial she could not rely on the equity in her house to help pay her lawyer because the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office started the process to seize her home.
The forfeiture office was acting on erroneous information provided by the RCMP and didn’t do its own research, which is why the provincial government is also named in the lawsuit, Martin added. The claim on the house was lifted only after the acquittal.
B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton would not comment on this case, but said Monday she has confidence in the civil forfeiture system.
“The civil forfeiture office does make sure it has a robust case before it proceeds,” she said.
M.H.’s visitor’s visa to Canada was set to expire, and Martin alleges police told her she could remain in the country under a temporary resident permit if she were a victim of human trafficking. There are reports she is still in the country today and, if true, Martin said that is surprising given the judge’s ruling on M.H.’s evidence.
The Sun asked three federal government agencies to confirm whether M.H. was still in Canada. All declined, citing privacy rules.
Ladha hasn’t communicated with M.H. since the trial, but said she doesn’t hold a grudge.
“I wish her well, for wherever she is and whatever she is doing. It is sad. I do wonder at times why she did that to me,” Ladha said.
“I always saw her as one of my own daughters. I wouldn’t wish bad for one of my own daughters, so I wouldn’t wish bad for her either.”
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