The deputy consul general of Bangladesh has been charged in Queens Criminal Court for labor trafficking after allegedly forcing a foreign national to work for his family in their Jamaica Estates home without any financial compensation for nearly four years, prosecutors announced on Monday.
Md Shaheldul Islam, 45, has been charged in a 33-count indictment with second- and fourth-degree grand larceny, second- and third-degree assault, labor trafficking, second-degree unlawful imprisonment, failure to pay the minimum wage and second-degree harassment. He was arraigned on Monday, June 11, and ordered held on $50,000 bond/$25,000 cash bail; Islam was additionally ordered to surrender his passport.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown pointed out that Islam has limited immunity, which pertains specifically to official actions in his capacity as deputy consul general.
According to criminal charges, the victim was brought from Bangladesh between 2012 and 2013 to work for Islam and his family as household help. Soon after his arrival, Islam allegedly took possession of the victim’s passport and required the man to work 18 hours a day in the family’s home.
The victim was allegedly never paid for his work despite having a contract that outlined his compensation. If the victim disobeyed Islam’s orders, he was allegedly physically assaulted by Islam, who either struck him with his hand or with a wooden shoe.
According to charges, the victim’s only income was through tips from guests when he was a server at parties and from the small amount of money that Islam sent to the victim’s family in Bangladesh. However, after seeing local news coverage of an Indian diplomat being charged with labor trafficking in 2014, Islam attempted to cover up his own alleged labor trafficking by taking most of the victim’s cash tip money and giving it back to the victim in the form of a check. The victim then had to deposit the check into his bank account, creating the appearance that he was receiving a paycheck.
When the victim asked to leave his employ on several occasions, Islam allegedly hit him or threatened to harm his family back home in Bangladesh, including threatening to kill the victim’s mother and young son and claiming that he would have the victim’s college-age daughter shamed if he did not continue to work as his servant.
In May 2016, the victim was able to escape from Islam’s home and reported his experience to the police.
“The allegations in this case are very disturbing,” Brown said in a statement. “A consular officer is accused of using both physical force and vile threats to control a person in his employment and whom he refused to pay. The defendant allegedly seized the victim’s passport and, from the first day on the job, refused to pay wages due the employee and, furthermore, used threats of harm to his family residing overseas to prevent him from leaving his employ. If the allegations are proven to be true, the defendant must be held accountable for these alleged actions.”
If convicted, Islam faces up to 15 years behind bars.