New York police have arrested a Bangladesh diplomat on charges of forcing his servant to work for his family in Queens without pay and assaulting him on several occasions.
Prosecutors say Bangladesh’s Deputy Consul General in New York Shahedul Islam, 45, was arraigned on Monday on grand larceny, assault, labour trafficking and other charges.
Bail was set at $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash.
Bangladesh’s Consul General Shameem Ahsan in New York, other colleagues and relatives arranged a $50,000 bond for Shahedul. But it will take 24 hours for him to be released.
Shahedul faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, according to Reuters.
Shahedul brought another Bangladeshi, Mohammed Amin, to New York between 2012 and 2013 to work as a household help for him and his family, according to the indictment.
“Soon after Mr Amin’s arrival, the defendant allegedly took his passport and required the man to work 18 hours a day … Even though Mr Amin had a contract which outlines his compensation, it is alleged he was never paid for his work,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
“If the victim disobeyed the defendant’s orders, Mr Amin was allegedly physically assaulted by the defendant, who either struck him with his hand or sometimes with a wooden shoe,” it said.
A spokesman for the Bangladesh embassy in Washington said it believed Amin had filed the case in bad faith and the allegations were “fabricated” and “baseless”.
It may be noted that Shahedul decided to cancel Amin’s contract and was preparing to send him back to Bangladesh due to his irresponsible acts, Reuters quoted Shamim Ahmad, the spokesman, as saying.
“We hope the court will give its verdict in the matter judiciously,” he said.
According to the charges, Amin’s only form of income came from tips from guests at parties and a “miniscule” amount of money Shahedul sent to Amin’s family in Bangladesh.
On several occasions when Amin sought to leave, Shahedul hit him and threatened to harm his mother and young son in Bangladesh, according to the statement.
On occasions, Shahedul also stated that he would have Amin’s college-age daughter “shamed” if he did not continue to work as his servant, the statement said. The statement did not make clear what Shahedul meant by shaming.
The statement also said that in 2014, shortly after an Indian diplomat in New York was charged with labour trafficking, Shahedul wrote a cheque for Amin’s cash-tip earnings that the latter then had to deposit in a bank account to create the appearance of a paycheque.
In late 2013, Devyani Khobragade, who was India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested and subsequently accused of visa fraud and forcing her housekeeper and nanny to work 100-hour weeks for just over $1 an hour.
Khobragade’s arrest and strip search provoked outrage in India and caused a major diplomatic rift between the United States and India. The charges against her were dismissed because she had diplomatic immunity. After she left the United States, a New York grand jury later issued a new indictment for visa fraud.
Last year, a Manhattan federal judge declared the former Bangladeshi consul general in New York and his wife to be in default for ignoring a lawsuit by a former domestic worker who claimed they forced him to work without pay in slavery-like conditions.