A married Indian couple, who ran two Hindi entertainment clubs in Singapore, was on Tuesday fined and sentenced to over six years in prison for exploiting three Bangladeshi women, coaxing one of them into prostitution, in the first conviction for labour trafficking in the country.
Malkar Savlaram Anant, 51 and Priyanka Bhattacharya Rajesh, 31, were also fined 7,500 Singapore dollars ($5,406) each, The Straits Times reported.
In addition, Malkar Anant was ordered to pay a compensation of 4,878.31 Singapore dollars ($3,516) to one of the women over unpaid wages.
In the first conviction of a labour-trafficking case in Singapore under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, the couple were each found guilty in November last year of three counts of abusing their power to exploit them.
Priyanka Rajesh was also convicted in three prostitution-related offences under the Women's Charter. Her husband was found guilty of two similar charges.
The couple managed Hindi entertainment clubs in Singapore. The survivors and their workplaces cannot be named as per the rules to protect their identities, according to the report.
In handing down the sentences, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said that the couple had played integral roles in a vice ring.
The judge said that the pair exercised "total control" over their the women, and the Women's Charter offences, which had a "transnational element", were difficult to detect.
Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) James Chew and Rimplejit Kaur had stated in their submissions that Malkar Anant was the sole managing operator of one clubs in the city area and was responsible for recruiting performing artistes at another nightspot nearby.
He recruited three Bangladeshi women as dancers for the clubs, and they lived with the couple in an apartment.
The husband and wife jointly managed the day-to-day operations of the two clubs and their employees.
However, the court heard that Malkar Anant and Priyanka Rajesh did not allow the women to leave the apartment on their own. They also confiscated the women's passports, work permits and mobile phones.
The three women had to work every day. They were not allowed to keep the tips they had earned and were given "revenue targets" to meet, failing which they were penalised with their salaries docked or were "blacklisted", said the DPPs.
Priyanka Rajesh also told one of the survivors that she had to "go out with customers".
The woman told the court that she wanted to return to Bangladesh upon learning this, but Priyanka Rajesh told her she had to pay 400,000 Bangladeshi Taka first.
Priyanka approached her with this proposal a number of times, and told her that she could remit half the earnings back home.
The woman ran away from the club in May 2016, after working for about five months. The other two women stopped working at the other club soon after.
Defence lawyer Jayakumar Naidu told the court that his clients intend to appeal against their conviction and sentences.
For each charge, first-time offenders convicted of the crime under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to 100,000 dollars and receive up to six strokes of the cane.
For living on the earnings of prostitution, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to 10,000 dollars.