Couple accused of exploiting Bangladeshi women, one allegedly 'coaxed' into prostitution
In a potential legal first here, case could lead to labour trafficking conviction
Three Bangladeshi women were hired as club dancers but one was later allegedly "coaxed" into prostitution.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew urged District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan to convict Malkar Savlaram Anant and his wife, Priyanka Bhattacharya Rajesh, after a trial.
He argued that the couple had abused their power by verbally abusing the victims and imposing severe financial penalties should they resign.
The case could potentially lead to the first labour trafficking conviction under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act.
Malkar, 51, and Priyanka, 31, both Indian nationals, jointly managed two downtown entertainment nightclubs.
Malkar would recruit performing artists, with the help of employment agents in India and Bangladesh, to dance and entertain patrons at the clubs.
The couple allegedly had tight control over the women's movements and communications.
The first victim arrived in Singapore in 2015 and the other two in 2016. They were promised a monthly salary of $982.
Their duties included dancing for customers at the clubs to earn tips that formed part of the clubs' revenues.
The victims shared an apartment with the couple and two other employees.
The first victim had come here under the impression that she would be working as a dancer.
About a month after her arrival, Priyanka allegedly informed her she had to collect at least $10,000 in tips each month, or forgo her full salary.
Priyanka also allegedly told her she had to go out with customers. When the victim said she wanted to return to Bangladesh, Priyanka allegedly asked her for money.
Priyanka allegedly told the victim her performance was sub-par, and she could improve her earnings if she went out with customers, said DPP Chew.
The victim allegedly had sex with three customers in 2016 and received at least $1,000 and valuables such as jewellery.
But the money she earned was allegedly taken from her, and she was allegedly subjected to body searches and stripped of the valuables when she returned to the apartment.
The couple also allegedly subjected the victims to oppressive conditions such as preventing them from leaving the apartment on their own and had their identification documents confiscated.
The women allegedly had to sign employment contracts in English without given any explanations.
The first victim eventually ran away from the club through the back door in 2016.
In their defence, Priyanka denied involvement in the work of the clubs. She also claimed that she had minimal interaction with the victims.
Malkar said none of the victims had sex with the customers.
Both also denied having seen the employment contracts the victims signed and confiscating passports, work permits and mobile phones.
The verdict is expected to be passed next month.