New York: An Indian-American couple, found guilty of virtually enslaving two Indonesian domestic helpers, has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in back wages to their former housekeepers by a U.S. court.

The court declared on Friday the workers are entitled to double the amount of unpaid wages they were owed by their employees, Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani.

The victims, Samirah and Enung, deserved the money because they “were beaten, tortured and subjected against their will,” while they worked 24 hours a day and seven days a week for the Sabhnani household, said judge Arthur Spatt.

Ms. Samirah, who worked at Sabhnanis’ home from February 2002 to May 2007, was awarded $620,744, while Ms. Enung, who worked from January 2005 to May 2007 is owed $315,802.

The Indonesian women, who were hired as household helps, testified they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives and forced to take cold water showers for what were perceived to be their “mistakes.” The prosecutors had claimed that the back wages amount to $1.1 million, but the defence had given a lower figure of $214,000.

The couple, who had a flourishing perfume business, were convicted in December 2007 on 12 counts, including modern-day slavery, forced labour, involuntary servitude and harbouring illegal immigrants. While Mr. Sabhnani was sentenced to three years and four months in prison and fined $12,500, his wife was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined $25,000. — PTI