La Passions Bar in Sosúa has been closed by the Attorney General’s office in Puerto Plata in connection with a criminal investigation into allegations of human trafficking. The business was closed in a raid on Sunday night, and the news came this morning when newspapers in the Dominican Republic published a press release from the office of the Attorney General.
According to the press release, 32 women were obligated to prostitute themselves at Passio’s Bar (misspelled Passion’s), located in the province of Puerto Plata. The raid was executed by the Procuraduría Especializada Contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y Trata de Personas in conjunction with the Procuraduría Fiscal de Puerto Plata. At the time the owner of the bar, along with his wife and business partner were taken into police custody.
Police collected evidence, which includes work schedules, records of entry and exit representing transactions with clients, condoms, uniforms, and receipts for fines charged to girls who failed to obey club rules. Police also collected digital cameras and cell phones.
Initial reports on an Internet forum suggested the closure had been made by the Ministry of Tourism. However, this is incorrect as such an executive branch agency would lack legal authority to take suspects into custody, seize evidence and bring criminal charges. The sign clearly reads, Ministerio Público which is a part of the judicial branch of government and is the Dominican equivalent of an Attorney General or State Prosecutor in the United States.
Although the Ministerio Público participated in the recent closure of illicit massage parlors in Sosúa, that event did not result in any criminal charges and was organized by the Ministry of Tourism, which exercised its authority to close businesses that lacked the proper business permit. Action taken this week at La Passions in Sosúa is likely to have more lasting consequences, given the seriousness of the charges presented in the judicial press release. Of course the club owner has yet to tell his side of the story, and can be expected to mount a vigorous defense to the charges.