The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) revealed yesterday that 84-year-old businessman Emile Elias, a former TSTT chairman and Family Planning Association president, was charged on 10 March with one count of sexual penetration and one count of sexual grooming in the alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl.
Elias, through public relations agency Ample, described the criminal case as ‘a current legal matter’ and ‘completely refutes’ the allegations ‘in the strongest possible terms’.
To be clear, this ‘legal matter’ is one that the laws of Trinidad and Tobago take very seriously. The Children’s Act of Trinidad and Tobago states, under section 18, ‘a person who sexually penetrates a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.’
(If the offence was ‘sexual touching’ without penetration, the penalty, according to section 19, would have been between 10 to 20 years on conviction.)
If the presumed victim is ‘sixteen years of age or over but under twenty-one years of age’—as the girl is in this case—there is a legal checklist that must be satisfied for the supposed perpetrator to be found ‘not liable’.
He must be:
- less than three years older than the child against whom he is purported to have perpetrated the offence;
- not in a familial relationship with the child nor in a position of trust in relation to the child;
- not of the same sex as the child; and
- [involved through] circumstances [that] do not reveal any element of exploitation, coercion, threat, deception, grooming or manipulation in the relationship.
In Elias’ case, the charges stemmed from an alleged incident in November 2019 in which a 17-year-old girl reported to police that she was sexually assaulted by a man in St James.
Investigators attached to the Western Division Child Protection Unit (CPU), according to a TTPS release, ‘discovered that the girl was allegedly groomed during the period September to November 2019 before the assault allegedly occurred’.
The investigative party is headed by Woman Superintendent (Ag) Claire Guy-Alleyne and included officers of the Western CPU, namely, Sgt James, WPCs Beckles, Samuel, Kerr and PCs Noel and Burton. Assistance was also given by Senior Superintendent Oswain Subero of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), Maraval Police Station, and the Port-of-Spain CPU.
Elias, who is the executive chairman of NH International, is an influential figure in the construction industry and co-founded the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association. He was also instrumental in the development of the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute.
Apart from serving as head of the Family Planning Association, Elias also founded the National Commission for Self-Help in 1987 and co-founded the Cancer Society of Trinidad and Tobago and the Beryl McBurnie Foundation for the Arts Ltd.
Elias was appointed chairman of state-owned TSTT in November 2015 before resigning in September 2017. During his term, he oversaw the controversial acquisition of Massy Communications Limited for over TT$200 million without Cabinet approval.