Man took passports as security for loans

People cannot hold other people’s passports, magistrate says

A man who pleaded guilty to operating a business without a license was granted bail on Monday with a condition that passports be returned to two people who borrowed money from him.

The defendant, Leroy Armstrong Henry, also faced five charges of unlawful possession of a passport.

Armstrong, 39, pleaded guilty to carrying on, or attempting to carry on, a business without a license – the lending of monies and collecting interest and deposit, which is required to be licensed under the Trade and Business Law.

One charge related to a period between September and October in 2013 at School Road and involved two passports; the other pertained to a period between January and April 2014 in George Town and involved three passports.

Crown counsel Alex Upton told Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez that two people had not yet received their passports back. The other parties did.

Defense attorney John Furniss said Henry had the same problem the complainants had: he had given their passports to an individual he borrowed money from. Now he had to pay the money back in order to get the passports.

“Do we have loan shark business so rampant around here?” the magistrate asked. “Perhaps there should be public education that people cannot hold other people’s passports.”

The officer in the case agreed. Only a court or the Immigration Department can hold a person’s passport, she noted. The officer explained that a passport does not belong to the individual – it belongs to the country that issues it.

Mr. Furniss advised that it would take about a month for Henry to get the $1,400 or so that he owed the individual who had the passports.

The magistrate said she really didn’t care about that. She directed Henry to give the officer the name of the individual who had the passports, as well as contact information. She then asked the officer to get the passports by 10 a.m. on Tuesday. If they were not obtained, she said, Henry would be brought back to court before his date for sentencing in late May.

Details of the cases against Henry were not gone into at this time and there was no mention of how much money was borrowed or for what period. It was expected that such information would be made public at the sentencing hearing.

Mr. Upton did say that, in due course, he would ask that the charges of unlawful possession of a passport be left on file. That means they would not be proceeded with at this time, but could be brought back if circumstances warrant, or they could eventually be dismissed.

Only a court or the Immigration Department can hold a person’s passport, the officer said. She explained that a passport does not belong to the individual – it belongs to the country that issues it.

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