KUALA LUMPUR – A Malaysian diplomat in New York City and his wife have been accused of treating their Sri Lankan maid like a “slave”, forcing her to work 15-hour days for meager pay.

US newspaper New York Post, in its report, claimed that the maid, identified as Parimaladevi Jeganathan, was also forbidden by the couple to venture out of their East 43rd Street apartment.

The couple, identified as Tamil Arasi Krishnan and Danish Kumar, are now the subject of a federal lawsuit. The US State Department listed Tamil Arasi as a consul at the Malaysian consulate on East 43rd Street.

New York Post quoted Anne Li, Parimaladevi’s lawyer, as saying that the maid wasn’t allowed to leave the house except to occasionally accompany the family to church.

According to the New York Post, Parimaladevi began working for the couple in Malaysia in 2013. In March that year, she arrived in the United States on a visa granted to diplomats’ relatives and household employees.

The report stated that in early in 2014, Tamil Arasi allegedly told Parimaladevi that her visa had expired and it was too costly to renew.

Parimaladevi was allegedly told that if she didn’t agree to work for another three-and-a-half years, she would have to return to Sri Lanka.

The report claimed that the couple had belittled her into thinking that her situation had become hopeless, and that she was a “nobody” in the US. Parimaladevi then contacted the FBI, whose agents took her from the apartment on March 6, 2014.

The report alleged that before she left, she insisted that her bags were checked in front of her employer so that she could not be accused of stealing any valuables. Her lawyer said Parimaladevi now stays in a “charity-funded safe house.”

According to the report, the federal lawsuit accuses the couple of violating laws designed to protect victims of human trafficking.

They are also accused of violating state and federal labour laws.

The report however noted that no criminal charges have been filed against the couple, who are now back in Malaysia. – NST