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Kuwaiti Contractor Accused of Forced Labor on U.S. Bases in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CN) - First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co. trafficked in human beings and used forced labor on its $592 million contract to build the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and in other contracts on U.S. military bases there, say two Filipinos who claim they escaped the forced labor "at great risk with the aid of a United States serviceman."

Ramil and Daniel Autencio say the defendants recruited them in the Philippines to work in Kuwait, "but it was a ruse," as "there were no jobs in Kuwait."

The Autencios claim First Kuwaiti received hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts in Iraq, "with the intent of employing forced labor on those contracts."

"When they arrived in Kuwait, their passports were taken and they were held captive in squalid conditions," the complaint states. "They were forced to go to Iraq to work doing menial labor, until they were able to escape at great risk with the aid of a United States serviceman. They made it back to the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, where they took refuge. They attempted to resolve their dispute in Kuwait, but First Kuwaiti denied their claims, refused to compensate them and continued in its demand that they return to Iraq. Only with the aid of the Philippine government were they able to return home."

The plaintiffs demand punitive damages from the company and from Wadih Al-Absi, Michel Al-Absi, and Mohammed Marafi, all of Al Souk Al Dakhli, Kuwait.

They are represented in Federal Court by John Thornton of Miami, Fla.

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