An angry and desperate Indian Embassy in Washington DC put out a statement this evening that did not respond to any of the serious charges leveled against NYC Indian Consulate’s Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragde by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
Devyani Khobragade was arrested in New York City Thursday morning and charged with Visa fraud and making false statements to the U.S. Embassy in India about wages to be paid to her maid.
The charges against Devyani are related to the A3 Visa application of her Indian maid Sangeeta Richard.
Devyani was released later in the evening, presumably with some restrictions.
India Silent on Charges
It is very telling that the Indian Embassy’s statement had nothing to say about the serious charges leveled against Devyani by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
It’s very rare that an Indian diplomat or any diplomat for that matter gets arrested considering that diplomats have diplomatic immunity. In Devyani’s case, U.S. officials refused to acknowledge her diplomatic immunity in the alleged Visa fraud and false statements matter.
Bharara did not mince words while announcing Devyani’s arrest on Thursday:
Foreign nationals brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United States citizens. The false statements and fraud alleged to have occurred here were designed to circumvent those protections so that a visa would issue for a domestic worker who was promised far less than a fair wage. This type of fraud on the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated.
Following Devyani’s arrest and subsequent release, the Indian Embassy in Washington DC issued a statement:
The Embassy of India in Washington DC had immediately conveyed its strong concern to the U.S. Government over the action taken against Dr Khobragade. The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account the existing Court case in India that has already been brought to their attention by the Government of India, and the Diplomatic status of the officer concerned.
India Smears Maid
Although silent on the serious charges against Devyani, Indian Embassy personnel in Washington DC had no difficulty in tilting against Devyani’s maid in their response to the diplomat’s humiliating arrest on Thursday.
The folks at the Indian Embassy acknowledged that Devyani Khobragade had been arrested on the basis of allegations raised by her “former India-based domestic assistant Sangeeta Richard.”
But Indian embassy personnel conveniently forgot that Sangeeta Richard worked for Devyani Khobragade in New York City from late November 2012 through June 2013 and described her as “former India-based domestic assistant Sangeeta Richard.”
Indian embassy officials are smearing the maid by charging that she had “been absconding since June this year” but had nothing to say about the alleged fraud committed against Sangeeta Richard by senior diplomat Devyani by not paying her the promised wages.
U.S. officials allege in court documents that although the maid was promised $4,500 per month she was paid less than Rs 30,000 rupees per month, or $3.31 per hour (way below the minimum wage in New York state).
It appears that either Devyani or the Indian government has been trying to muzzle the maid Sangeeta Richard by filing a case against her in an Indian court.
Here’s what the Indian Embassy had to say on the court case against the maid Sangeeta Richard in India:
In this context the Delhi High Court had issued an-interim injunction in September to restrain Ms Richard from instituting any actions or proceedings against Dr Khobragade outside India on the terms or conditions of her employment.
The US Government had subsequently been requested to locate Ms Richard and facilitate the service of an arrest warrant, issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of the South District Court in New Delhi under Sections 387, 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code.
Whether Devyani Khobragade is guilty or innocent will ultimately be determined in a U.S. court of law.
But the Indian Embassy in Washington DC appears to be in a clumsy, desperate damage control mode.
By the way, the Devyani Khobragade arrest is the third instance in the last three years involving NYC Indian Consulate officials and their Indian maids.