Court sentences Indian couple in Singapore’s first labour trafficking conviction


Singaporean court, in its first labour trafficking conviction, handed down its sentence on Tuesday to an Indian couple for exploiting migrant women.

Indian nationals Priyanka Batthacharya Rajesh, 29, and Malkar Savlaram Anant, 49, who ran two entertainment clubs in Boat Quay, were given a prison term of five years and six months in jail plus additional fines each, after they were found guilty of exploiting three Bangladeshi women, with one woman forced to prostitute herself.

The pair was also fined, while the male owner of the nightclubs was ordered by the court to pay nearly S$5,000 (US$3,600) in unpaid wages, according to a spokesman from Singapore’s Manpower Ministry.

“Both intend to appeal against their convictions and sentences. They are out on bail,” the spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The Southeast Asian nation of 5.6 million depends on about one million migrant workers from countries like Indonesia, China and Myanmar to power its economy, working in sectors from construction to manufacturing and domestic care.

The case was the first conviction since Singapore introduced a law in 2015 in a bid to fight human trafficking, which labour rights groups say migrant workers are most vulnerable to.

Offenders can face up to 10 years in jail, whipping and a fine under the law. There were two other labour trafficking cases pending in court.

Court documents showed the couple had subjected the women to verbal abuse, controlled their movement and confiscated their passports.

The couple was also found guilty of forcing one of the women into sex work.

The prosecution has said the three Bangladeshi women had to work every day and the couple did not pay at least two of them their monthly salary of 60,000 taka (US$707).

The government has warned employers that it would take strong action to prevent trafficking cases.

Singapore was ranked “Tier 2” in the latest U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully meeting minimum standards when it comes to eliminating human trafficking. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)