Cloud on missionaries’ lawyer
An investigation into whether a legal adviser to the 10 US missionaries accused of abducting Haitian children is wanted for sex trafficking may not affect the case of the missionaries, a Haitian judge says. The magistrate overseeing the missionaries’ trial, Bernard Saint-Vil, said yesterday the probe into Jorge Puello, the Dominican legal adviser to the missionaries, is separate from his main investigation. “At this point, the two cases have nothing to do with each other,” Mr Saint-Vil said. The Americans were arrested last — month as they tried to take a bus-load of 33 children into the Dominican Republic without permission from the government. They have denied abducting the children, saying they were trying to help earthquake victims.
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Members of the group hired a Dominican man they believed to be a lawyer, who called himself Jorge Puello.
El Salvador police say they are investigating whether Mr Puello is Jorge Torres Orellana, wanted in connection with a sex- trafficking ring in which women and girls from the Dominican Republic and elsewhere were lured into prostitution. Pictures of the two men show a striking similarity. When the trafficking ring was broken up last year, police arrested Ana Josefa Galvarina, Mr Torres’s common-law wife, the El Salvador police said.
During the bust, officers found multiple passports belonging to Mr Torres, including a Dominican passport in the name of Jorge Torres Orellana Puello.
Interpol issued an international arrest warrant in the name of Jorge Torres Orellana, 32. It has emerged that Mr Puello is not a registered lawyer in the Dominican Republic. He could not be reached yesterday.
More evidence emerged on Saturday that Mr Puello and Mr Torres are the same person. Isaac Rudman, president of the Israelite Centre of the Dominican Republic, said he met Mr Puello two or three years ago. Mr Puello introduced himself as Jorge Torres, and had a letter of introduction from a synagogue in Canada, Mr Rudman said.
Concerns about Mr Puello came as a setback to the US missionaries after further testimony in their case. Family members of the Haitian children told the magistrate they had handed over their children to the Americans, who had promised to take the children to an orphanage being built in the Dominican Republic.
After the testimony, the Haitian lawyer for the Americans filed a motion for the case to be dropped. The prosecutor considering the motion is due to make a recommendation this week. The decision rests with Mr Saint-VB. He said that even if Mr Puello was wanted by the police, his case could remain separate from that of the missionaries. “I have no indication Mr Puello knew the missionaries before their arrest,” he said.