Slavery case: NRI allowed to remain free on bail

May 20th, 2008 - 1:48 am ICT by admin  

New York, May 20 (IANS) Indian American Mahender Sabhnani, convicted along with his wife of “modern day slavery”, has been allowed to remain free on bail till he is sentenced next month. However, the judge rebuked him for staying out till late in the night, violating the bail agreement in spirit.

“Sabhnani has definitely taken advantage of the court,” US District Court Judge Arthur Spatt said Monday at the hearing he ordered after receiving reports that Sabhnani had been out until 1.06 a.m., 1.57 a.m. and 2.30 a.m. on recent occasions.

Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha, 45, who ran a successful perfumes business in Long Island here, were convicted in December on charges of forced labour, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens. Prosecutors said the couple forced two Indonesian housekeepers to work 18 or more hours a day in their Muttontown mansion for little food or money.

During their trial, the Sabhnanis had been free on a $4.5 million bail package that included strict conditions of house arrest including armed security guards. After their conviction, Varsha Sabhnani’s bail was revoked, on the ground that she had been the one who inflicted punishment on the housekeepers. Her husband was permitted to remain free, partly to make arrangements for the care of the couple’s four children.

Judge Spatt said that while he had given Sabhnani permission to attend business meetings in Manhattan, he had little notion the meetings would be held at such late hours.

He ordered that in the coming weeks till June 27, when Sabhnani’s sentence is scheduled to be announced, he may only leave home to visit his wife in jail, his attorneys, his doctor or to attend religious services.

The Sabhnanis face up to 20 years each in prison. The couple’s attorney plans to go in appeal.

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