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Slavery charge on couple

Central Islip (New York), Dec. 17 (AP): A jury today convicted a millionaire couple of enslaving two Indonesian women they brought to their mansion to work as housekeepers.

Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, were each convicted of all charges in a 12-count federal indictment that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harbouring aliens.

Prosecutors said the women were subjected to repeated psychological and physical abuse and were forced to work 18 hours or more a day.

The Sabhnanis, who have four children and operate a worldwide perfume business out of their Muttontown home on Long Island’s Gold Coast, could face up to 40 years in prison, although attorneys predicted the punishment would be considerably less. He is from India, and she is from Indonesia, but both are naturalized US citizens

One of the couple’s daughters, Dakshina, collapsed in the front row of the courtroom as the verdict was read, prompting the judge to clear the room as medical personnel attended to the girl.

Defence attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said he would appeal. “Apparently, the jury was taken by the histrionics” of the Indonesian women, he said.

Fellow defence lawyer Stephen Scaring said another of the Sabhnanis’ children, daughter Tina, told him: “We never did anything to anybody, how could this happen to us in America?”

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