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Saturday November 5, 2011

First forced labour charge

PETALING JAYA: A newspaper vendor and her husband have been charged with trafficking five Indian nationals for the purpose of forced labour.

S. Suguna, 37, and P. Ramasamy, 48, who pleaded not guilty, were charged under Section 12 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 which carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and a fine.

Day in court: Ramasamy and Suguna being escorted into the courthouse in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

It is learnt that this is the first time the Labour Department has initiated the complaint.

A department personnel is listed as the official complainant in all five charges.

The Act was amended and passed in the Dewan Rakyat in July last year to include offences against migrants.

Eight Labour Department officials turned up for the case yesterday which was heard at four different Sessions Court rooms here.

Also present were several observers, including from the Malaysian Trades Union Congress and the Coalition to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery in Asia.

Suguna and Ramasamy were charged with five counts of trafficking G. Boominathan, 31; R. Prabhu, 23; R. Suseendran, 26; S. Ramadoss, 40; and S. Rathakrishnan, 45.

They allegedly committed the offence on June 25 at about 1am in Taman Wawasan, Pusat Bandar Puchong.

The court set bail at RM26,000 each. Bail was set at RM6,000 for the first charge and RM5,000 each for the remaining four charges.

Suguna was also ordered to hand over her passport while Ramasamy, who is a bankrupt, was told to report to a police station in Puchong once a month until the case is over.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Shah Rizal Abdul Manan had earlier asked the courts to set bail at RM20,000 for each charge.

In seeking a lower bail, defence lawyer K. Saraswathy said Suguna was the sole breadwinner in the family, adding that Suguna did not earn much distributing newspapers.

The case will be mentioned on Nov 25 and heard in one court.

It is learnt that a third person is expected to be arrested and charged.

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