Businesswoman Mumtaz Ladha of West Vancouver, accused of human trafficking, found not guilty

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STORY 4 ITEM 3
 

BUSINESSWOMAN Mumtaz Ladha, 60, of West Vancouver, who had been accused of bringing a 26-year-old Tanzanian woman to Vancouver in 2008 as an unpaid maid, has been found not guilty on all charges against her.

Ladha had been charged with one count of human trafficking, two counts of misrepresentation and an employment violation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. A human smuggling charge was dropped because of a B.C. court ruling about the Criminal Code charge.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Felon found that the young woman’s testimony was not credible and the Crown did not prove that she was coerced into coming to Canada or working for the Ladha family.

The judge noted that Ladha had no reason to hire the housekeeper under the table, but said the complainant had a motive to lie.

She ruled that Ladha was generous to the woman, but the woman then took advantage of that generosity.

The young woman fled to a women’s shelter in June 2009.

 

THE trial began in September. At the time, defence lawyer Eric Gottardi said that the woman did not work at Ladha’s posh British Properties home, telling the media outside the court that she was a basically treated like a member of the family. He added that the issue of work and what is work would form part of the issues at trial.

Laurie Parker-Stuart, a counsellor at the shelter, testified that the woman was under stress and came with no money and the clothes she wore. She didn’t have a passport and spoke broken English. West Vancouver Police was contacted to help get her passport and belongings.

Constable Kelly English said that she was told at the Ladha home that the passport was not there and returned there the next day. She said she put clothing and shoes in a garbage bag and there were belongings that could have filled another garbage bag.

English told a defence lawyer that the woman appeared to be in good health and did not appear distressed.

The court heard from Staff-Sgt. Graydon Findlay that Ladha’s daughter, Zara Ladha, requested a copy of the police report and told him that she was concerned that her mother who was in Tanzania had been told by the woman’s family not to leave that country until they knew about her health and where she was.

Findlay agreed when defence lawyer Gottardi asked if Ladha’s daughter was essentially conveying that her mother had been threatened.

Gottardi inquired from Parker-Stuart if she recalled police told her that the woman could possibly get an extension of her immigration status is she were a victim of human trafficking and if she told the woman about it. She said she did that in “a really limited form” because she doesn’t know Swahili, the woman’s language.

Caroline Raymond, who was the RCMP’s Human Trafficking co-ordinator and interviewed the woman several times, read from her notes that Ladha and her daughter did not threaten to send the woman back to Tanzanian. They told her to stop crying like a baby and work because she needed to do so a little longer to repay the cost of bringing her to Canada.

The young woman testified that she started working as a housekeeper for Ladha in Dar es Salaam in her country when she was about 14 years old.

She recounted the hardships she and her family faced as she lost her father when she was three years old. Her mother died in 2002 and she had to quit school. She worked for an African family before becoming a housekeeper for Ladha who lived in a posh area. She said she worked from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. six days a week for the equivalent of CDN$50 a month.

The Crown had alleged that Ladha brought the woman to Canada with the promise of working in a salon for six months for $200 a month.

A lawyer for Mumtaz Ladha told the court that the young woman made up her claims because she was so desperate to stay here. He said there was little evidence to support her allegations except for her own testimony which was full of inconsistencies and lies.