Indian-American couple convicted in slavery case

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New York, Dec 18: A wealthy Indian-American couple from Long Island, near here has been convicted in a slavery case involving two Indonesian women. A jury convicted the two, Varsha (45) and Mahender Sabhani (51), yesterday for forcibly keeping the women as housekeepers.

They were each convicted of all charges in a 12-count federal indictment that included harbouring aliens, involuntary servitude, conspiracy and forced labour. According to prosecution, the Indonesian women were forced to work for at least 18 hours a day and were subjected to frequent physical and psychological abuse. It described the case as 'modern day slavery.' The defense attorney, Jeffrey Hoffman, said he would appeal against the jury verdict.

According to assistant US attorney Mark Lesko, the two Indonesian housekeepers, used to send home 100 or 150 dollars of their monthly earnings every month. The defense lawyers argued the two women created the story of abuse to escape the Sabhanis for more remunerative offers.

They noted that the housekeepers knew witchcraft and might have abused themselves.

The Sabhanis, both natives of India, have already spent three months in prison. A judge later approved a bail for them for an amount of 4.5 million dollars. They were also asked to pay 10,000 dollars a day for security monitoring. Despite all this, they were kept under house arrest.

The Indian-American couple may now face up to 40 years in jail.

Catholic Charities looked after the Indonesian women, who had worked for the Sabhanis for five years, during the trial period.


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