Slavery case: NRI to be probed for bail violation

May 17th, 2008 - 5:34 pm ICT by admin  


New York, May 17 (IANS) Indian American Mahendra Sabhnani, convicted along with his wife of “modern day slavery”, has now been accused of violating his bail agreement by staying out past midnight while he awaits sentencing. A federal judge in Long Island, New York, has ordered a hearing into reports that Sabhnani, a perfume manufacturer and distributor, has been out at night until 1.06 a.m., 1.57 a.m. and 2.30 a.m on occasions. The nature of “these late-night sojourns” will be investigated at the hearing Monday, the judge said Friday.

If Sabhnani is found to have violated his bail agreement, the judge could revoke his house arrest and order him into jail until his sentencing next month.

Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha, 45, were convicted in December last year of all charges in a 12-count indictment that included forced labour, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and the harbouring of aliens.

Prosecutors said the multi-millionaire Sabhnanis forced two illiterate Indonesian housekeepers to work long hours for little food or money in their home in Muttontown, Long Island. One of the women testified at the trial that she was scalded, stabbed and made to take cold showers for perceived transgressions, including stealing food from trash cans because she was too hungry.

During their trial, the Sabhnanis were freed on a $4.5 million bail package that included strict conditions of house arrest including armed security guards, paid for by the couple.

After their conviction, the judge revoked Varsha’s bail, ruling that she had been the one who inflicted the physical punishment on the housekeepers. Her husband was permitted to remain free, in part to allow him to make arrangements for the care of their four children after the couple start serving their sentences, which could be up to 20 years in prison.

Sabhnani’s lawyer Friday said that his client was permitted to leave his home “under certain circumstances, which I believe includes going out to dinner”. He said he was sure his client was accompanied by security guards whenever he left home.

“There may have been some confusion about the length of time he could stay out,” he added.

Varsha is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, and her husband the next day.

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