FOR many, there is something enticing about knowing what the future holds. So when religious men and women claim they can solve your problems, once the price is right, even if it involves so-called ‘black magic’, many won’t mind taking a chance.
For over two months, scores of people have been visiting or calling Newsday’s South Bureau complaining about being fleeced and in some cases, sexually harassed, by charlatans who have set up shop on High Street in the south city as well as in Chaguanas. They all claim to be spiritualists from India.
Even the rich are falling victim. A prominent business family living in Gulf View reportedly lost $145,000 in their quest to find a ‘prince’ from India to marry their attractive daughter. This case is engaging the attention of Fraud Squad police with sources within the Squad saying they cannot make head nor tale to solve what is an international scam originating in southern India.
Sunday Newsday was told the Immigration Department has gotten involved in tracking down several Indian nationals, many of whom are often seen on High Street in San Fernando and the Southern Main Road in Chaguanas, handing out leaflets to passers-by.
The leaflets advertise protection from black magic, witchcraft, voodoo, evil spirits, obeah and negative energy. A woman caught in the scam, told Sunday Newsday she has since reported it to the San Fernando Police and the Immigration Department.
She claims she was also sexually molested before being fleeced of $30,000 in a room on High Street by an Indian national. Requesting anonymity, the embarrassed woman said, “I accepted the leaflet to have my palm read, so I paid at first, $100. A gentleman, speaking broken English, told me three people were trying to kill me. He told me things that I thought were were accurate. I became frightened.”
The woman told Newsday that $9,000 was quoted as a price “to save my life.” When she returned to the room a week later, an attempt was made to exorcise spirits from her. “Lime was rubbed on a piece of my clothing. I saw smoke coming from a jar and I was shown a knotted piece of cloth. They said to me that knot represents an evil spirit they had taken out,” said the woman who is from Rio Claro.
To her surprise, the man conducting the ceremony then told her to strip naked. “He said he wanted to see my privates,” she said. She immediately left the room. Three other women, two of them elderly, described to Sunday Newsday similar experiences of being taken to a room off High Street, after opting to have their palms read.
Three stores on High Street house these rooms and according to the women, they were attended to by women in saris. They were told about unfaithful husbands and neighbours’ envy. They were then given the price, some upwards of $50,000, to save their lives.
“He told me I should get a loan because he don’t want to see me dead,” one of the woman said. When this Sunday Newsday reporter visited these rooms to investigate, none of the holy men had the ‘spiritual foresight’ to know that a journalist on a ‘sting’ operation was in their midst. This reporter declined to have his palm read although being told the results could be life-changing.
Sunday Newsday learnt that several men and women from South India live in about six apartments on Quenca Street in San Fernando. Women in saris distributed hand-bills on High Street. On a visit to one of the rooms on upper High Street, photos of Hindu deities adorned the walls. A bare-backed man, sitting behind a desk, told Sunday Newsday, “Mother Durga will solve all your problems.”
Another female victim told Newsday that $17,000 was demanded from her with the suggestion from a tarot reader that she find the money to pay him because she was possessed by demons. When asked how sure he is about cleansing people of bad spirits, the bare-backed man who appeared to be in his 30s said: “People can go to all kinds of astrologers, but vee (we) are the most experienced.”