India-born US millionaire gets 11 years for abuse of Indonesian maids

June 27th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 27 (ANI): India-born US millionaire Varsha Sabhnani, who along with her husband, was convicted of enslaving and torturing two Indonesian women, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined 25,000 dollars.

Varsha, 46, was seen wiping out tears while talking to two of her four children and husband Mahender Sabhnani, who is due to be sentenced later. Mahender (51) was also seen crying as the judge pronounced the sentence.

The trial provided a glimpse into a growing US problem of domestic workers exploited in slave-like conditions.

The victims testified that they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, and forced to climb stairs and take freezing showers as punishment.

One victim was forced to eat dozens of chilli peppers against her will, and then was forced to eat her own vomit when she couldnt keep the peppers down, prosecutors said, The Daily News reported.

US District Judge Arthur Spatt called the testimony eye-opening, to say the least - that things like that go on in our country.

In her arrogance, she treated Samirah and Enung as less than people, said Assistant US Attorney Demetri Jones.

Justice for the victims: Thats what the government is asking for, he said.

Federal sentencing guidelines had recommended a range of 12 to 15 years in prison for Sabhnani, who was identified as the one who inflicted the abuse. In addition to prison, she will serve three years probation and was fined 25,000 dollars.

Prosecutors contended that the accusations amounted to a modern-day slavery case. They said the maids were subjected to punishment that escalated into a cruel form of torture, which ended in May 2007, when one of the women fled early on the morning of Mothers Day.

She wandered into a Dunkin Donuts wearing nothing but rags, and employees called police.

The women, whose relatives in Indonesia were paid about 100 dollars a month - the women themselves received no cash - said they were tortured and beaten for misdeeds that included sleeping late or stealing food from trash bins because they were poorly fed. Both women also said they were forced to sleep on mats in the kitchen. (ANI)

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