A multi-millionaire Indian American couple, found guilty of virtually enslaving two Indonesian maids, has been ordered to pay nearly $ one million in back wages to their former housekeepers by a US court.
The court declared yesterday that the workers are entitled to double the amount of unpaid wages they were owed by their employees, Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani.
The victims Samirah and Enung deserved the money because they "were beaten, tortured and subjected against their will," while they worked 24 hours a day and seven days a week for the Sabhnani household, judge Arthur Spatt said in the ruling.
Samirah, who worked at Sabhnanis' home from February 2002 to May 2007, was awarded $ 620,744, while Enung, who was at the house from January 2005 to May 2007 is owed $ 315,802.
The Indonesian women, who were hired as household helps, had testified in court that they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives and forced to take cold water showers for what were perceived to be their "mistakes".
The prosecutors had claimed that the back wages amount to USD 1.1 million but the defence had given a much lower figure of USD 214,000.
The couple, who had a flourishing perfume business, were convicted in December last year on 12 counts including modern day slavery, forced labour, involuntary servitude and harbouring illegal aliens.
While Varsha, 46 was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined USD 25,000, her 51 year-old husband was sentenced to three years and four months in prison and fined $ 12,500.