US: Senior Bangladeshi diplomat indicted for labour trafficking
A senior Bangladeshi diplomat Md Shaheldul Islam has been indicted in the United States on charges of forcing his domestic help to work long hours without pay.
According to the prosecutors, 45-year-old Islam tried to cover up his actions after an Indian diplomat faced visa fraud charges and was accused of exploiting her maid in 2013.
Islam is the Deputy Consul General of Bangladesh in New York and holds "limited immunity" which pertains specifically to official actions only, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
Islam was indicted by a Queens County grand jury with 33 -counts of labour trafficking, assault and other charges. He was arraigned yesterday before Queens Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis, who set bail at USD 50,000 bond or USD 25,000 cash and ordered Islam to surrender his passport.
Islam's next court date is June 28 and if convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to the indictment, Md Amin was brought to Queens from Bangladesh around 2012 to work as household help for Islam and his family. Soon after Amin's arrival, Islam allegedly took his passport and required the man to work 18 hours a day in the family's home.
Even though Amin had a contract which outlined his compensation, it is alleged he was never paid for his work and if he disobeyed Islam's orders, Amin was allegedly physically assaulted by the diplomat, who either struck him with his hand or sometimes with a wooden shoe.
The Bangladeshi diplomat allegedly forced Amin to work for his family in their Queens home without financial compensation from approximately 2012 through May 2016, when the victim was able to escape.
According to the charges, the victim's only source of income came from tips from guests when he was a server at parties and a minuscule amount of money that Islam sent to Amin's family in Bangladesh.
However, Islam sought to "cover up" his own alleged illegal actions afterIndian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was then India's Deputy Consul General in the city, wasindicted in January 2014 on visa fraud and making false statements regarding the visa application of her domestic worker, Brown said.
Khobragade too was accused of underpaying her domestic help while making her work long hours and of intimidating her and her family. Manhattan's former top federal prosecutor Indian-American Preet Bharara had brought the charges against Khobragade, setting off a major diplomatic crisis between Washington and New Delhi.
"However, in 2014, shortly after there was local news coverage of an Indian diplomat being charged with labour trafficking, the defendant allegedly sought to cover up his own alleged illegal actions by taking most of the victim's cash tip money which he gave back in the form of a check," Brown said.
"It is alleged the victim then had to deposit the check into his bank account, thereby creating the appearance that the employee was receiving a paycheck,"the Queens District Attorney statement said, referring to theKhobragade incident without naming the Indian diplomat.
Finally, according to the criminal charges, when Amin asked to leave his job on several occasions, Islam in response, allegedly hit him or threatened to harm his family back home in Bangladesh. It is alleged that Islam specifically threatened to kill the man's mother and young son and, on occasion, stated he would have Amin's college-age daughter shamed if he did not continue to work as his servant.
In May 2016, Amin was able to escape from the residence and reported his experience to the police.
"The allegations in this case are very disturbing. A diplomat is accused of using both physical force and vile threats to control a person in his employment and whom he refused to pay," Brown said adding that Islam seized his domestic help's passport and, from the first day on the job, refused to pay wages due the employee.
(With PTI inputs)