Bangladesh diplomat arrested in NY on labour trafficking charges

US Chargé d’Affaires summoned

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:05, Jun 14,2017 | Updated: 01:36, Jun 14,2017

Md Shaheldul Islam

Md Shaheldul Islam. — Photo courtesy: facebook

A Bangladesh diplomat was arrested in New York on Monday and charged with charges of labour trafficking, assault and failure to pay the minimum wage to his house-help.
The diplomat, Md Shahedul Islam, a political appointee who holds the office of deputy consul general at the Consulate General of Bangladesh in New York, was accorded limited immunity that pertained specifically to official activities only.
The government on Tuesday summoned US embassy Chargé d’Affaires Joel Reifman in Dhaka and sought explanation on the arrest.
Foreign ministry secretary Mahbub Uz Zaman talked to Reifman at the foreign ministry and wanted to know the reasons of arresting Bangladesh diplomat as authorities informed the US state department office in New York about leaving of his house-help a year ago.
Queens County grand jury indicted Shahedul with labour trafficking, assault and other criminal charges for allegedly forcing a Bangladesh national to work for his family in their Queen’s home without financial compensation from approximately 2012 through May 2016, according to a release of Queens district attorney Richard A Brown’s office on Monday (NYT).
He was charged in a 33-count indictment with labour trafficking, assault, unlawful confinement, failure to pay the minimum wage and harassment.
If the charges are proved, Shahedul may face imprisonment for up to 15 years.
Shahedul, 45, was produced before a Queens court that set bail at $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash, but ordered him to return to court on June 28 and to surrender his passport.
Officials in Dhaka and New York said that his release on bail was under process.
The plaintiff, Ruhul Amin, was taken to Queens in New York from Bangladesh sometime between 2012 and 2013 to work as house help for Shahedul and his family.
Soon after his arrival, Shahedul allegedly took possession of the plaintiff’s passport and required him to work 18 hours a day in the home, Brown said.
The victim had a job-contract which outlined his compensation, but it was alleged he was never paid for his work.
If the victim disobeyed the defendant’s orders, the plaintiff was allegedly physically assaulted by the defendant, who either struck him with his hand or sometimes with a wooden shoe, according to the charges.
The victim’s only sources of income came was from tips from guests when he was a server at parties and from the small amount of money that the defendant sent to the plaintiff’s family in Bangladesh, Brown continued.
In 2014, shortly after there was local news coverage of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was also charged with labour trafficking, the defendant allegedly sought to cover up his own alleged illegal actions by taking most of the plaintiff’s cash tips which he gave back in the form of a check.
It was alleged that the plaintiff then had to deposit the check into his bank account, thereby creating the appearance that the employee was receiving a pay cheque.
When the plaintiff wanted to leave Shahedul’s place on several occasions, according to the charges, the defendant, in response, allegedly hit him or threatened to harm his family back home in Bangladesh if he did not continue to work as his servant.
In May 2016, the plaintiff managed to escape from the house and reported his experience to the police.
Bangladesh consul general M Shameem Ahsan said that Ruhul Amin disappeared on May 17, 2016 and the very next day the consulate informed the US state department office in New York about his departure, according to Reuters.
‘It is surprising for us that after 13 months he has appeared with these allegations, why did he not raise this issue earlier,’ Shameem said. 

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email