A restaurant owner in Bahrain has dismissed as lies claims by three Indian waitresses that they were forced into prostitution at their place of work.
According to reports, Mohammad Hassan, owner of the Sydney Restaurant in Bahrain's capital Manama, said in a press conference that the women made the allegations at the instigation of customers.
The three - Sai Chandrababu, 24, Biji Chacko, 25, and Jalaja Nair, 35 - had alleged they were forced into prostitution by the restaurant manager and a woman supervisor, both Indians, in order to make the customers spend more.
"The women started building personal relationships with our male customers, which, if we did not put a stop to, would ruin our business," a report in the Gulf Daily News newspaper quoted Sunil Kumar, the Indian manager of the restaurant who was also present in the press conference, as saying.
"We know for sure that it is our customers who provoked them to protest, so that they could take them out and also they were annoyed at me for not letting them do so," he said.
The trio reportedly fled Bahrain on Tuesday night without informing the Indian embassy or the law firm that had taken up their case.
They had also alleged that they were kept confined in their apartment in Manama between their work shifts. All their salary was deducted to meet accommodation charges, compelling them to survive on tips.
They had alleged that they were forced into doing sexual acts and drinking with male customers to increase the take from each table.
One of the women eventually contacted the Indian embassy in Manama. All three were rescued last Sunday, following which they filed a criminal complaint with the police.
Hassan dismissed as baseless the women's allegation that all their salaries were deducted to meet accommodation charges.
"This was being done because they had taken a loan of Bahraini dinars (BD) 700 from us. The women were earning as much as BD300 in tips," a report in the Bahrain Tribune newspaper quoted him as saying.
On the women's allegation that they had been locked up, Hassan said, "We did this for their safety. A supervisor went with them whenever they went. In fact one woman who had worked here earlier returned. If we had been involved in prostitution, would she come back?"
"We were doing this to prevent the women going out with our customers, because if they were caught somewhere in a compromising or morally unacceptable situation, the authorities would come searching for me first, as I am responsible for them," Kumar added.
According to the Bahrain Tribune report, the Bahraini sponsor is now contemplating filing a case against the women on the grounds of violation of contract and suffering losses.
Earlier, Indian ambassador to Bahrain Balkrishna Shetty was quoted as saying that he would write to the chief secretary of Kerala, from where the women hailed, to check with the families under what circumstances they withdrew the case and left the country.