The former president of the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) and his wife were charged with three counts of exploitation and forced labour at the Sessions Court today in relation to their three Indonesian domestic workers.
Tan Sri Ketheeswaran M Kanagaratnam, better known as Kenneth Eswaran or KK Eswaran, and Puan Sri Vivienne Ketheeswaran were jointly charged with the offence under Section 12 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.
They pleaded not guilty when the charge was read out to them before judge Roszianayati Ahmad.
Kenneth, 58, and Vivienne, 63, were accused of exploiting their domestic workers for the purposes of forced labour from October 2012 to March 2019.
The couple faces a maximum jail term of 15 years and a fine of not more than RM500,000, upon conviction.
Roszianayati set bail at RM50,000 with one surety for each defendant and ordered for their passports to be surrendered to the court.
She also set May 3 for the next hearing.
The couple was represented by Shashi Devan and C Vijaya Kumar.
The three domestic workers, between 25 and 41 years of age, had reportedly been working at the couple’s home in Country Heights, Kajang for seven years, four years and six months, respectively.
They allegedly endured years of abuse before seeking help from the Indonesian embassy on March 22 while the couple was abroad.
Police said all three claimed to have been punched and slapped, with their salaries and passports withheld.
ACP Ahmad Dzaffir was previously reported as saying that the three women escaped by climbing the fence of their employers’ home. They were assisted by an unknown man who brought them to the embassy.
However, he said medical checks on the women showed no sign of physical, sexual or mental abuse.
The women were reportedly sent to a safe house after an interim protection order granted by the Magistrate’s Court.
According to The Malaysian Insight, a police source said that the domestic helpers claimed to have been punched and slapped whenever their employers were in a bad mood.
Authorities arrested Kenneth and Vivienne when they went to the police station to have their statement recorded.