Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade held for visa fraud in US released on bail

The perfect Indian crab mentality – Indian-born US attorney gets Indian diplomat arrested in the US though complainant absconding

Dec 13 • Human Rights, International, News, Women • 827 Views • No Comments

Is Devyani Khobragade a victim of Bharara’s ambition?


There are speculations that the US attorney is looking for ‘scalps’ as a springboard to public office

Aditi Phadnis  for BUSINESS STANDARD |  New Delhi |  Last Updated at 19:10 IST   
India today reacted with shock and rage at the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of India in New York, who was arrested allegedly on a visa fraud charge and making a false statement as she was dropping her children in school, and taken to prison. She was released today on a bond of $ 250,000.US Ambassador Nancy Powell was summoned to South Block for an explanation and the Indian government said the treatment meted out to Khobragade was “absolutely unacceptable”

Khobragade was serving as the acting Consul General at the time of her arrest. If convicted she could be imprisoned for a maximum of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false statement.

In India, the case was linked to the political ambitions of  United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.

Spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said Khobragade was an officer who was entitled to diplomatic immunity and the normal courtesies extended to a diplomat by the country she was serving in; but she was also a mother of two young children. “We have forcefully told the US Embassy that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats in unacceptable”, Akbaruddin said. “If there are issues of an illegal nature, these will be resolved separately and at this stage I will not be in a position to go into any legal issues if there are any but as far as we are concerned this kind of behaviour towards an Indian diplomat is completely unacceptable”, he said, adding   the basic courtesies governing the behaviour of nations in relation to each other’s diplomats needed to be followed. He said Khobragade’s arrest had nothing to do with her diplomatic duties.

The case against Khobragade was that she took a baby-sitter and housekeeper along with her to the US, and told the US Immigration Department that the help would be paid a US minimum wage – which was $4,500 a month – whereas the help was paid only $530 a month. Acording to Bharara’s office, two sets of contracts were signed between Khobragade and her housekeeper, one offering her the US wage and another citing the real wage she would be paid. The help was instructed, according to Bharara, to say nothing about the second contract during her interview for her visa.

The Indian Foreign Office says “Action was apparently taken against Dr Khobragade on the basis of allegations raised by the officer’s former India-based domestic assistant, Sangeeta Richard, who has been absconding since June this year. 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”.

Indian officials say the extremely public manner in which Khobragade’s arrest was effected has a lot to do with Bharara’s political ambitions. Calling him the Arvind Kejriwal of New York, a former Indian government official who has served in the US, said: “After taking down one state Senator, two members of the assembly, a member of the council and many others in two alleged bribery plots; after going after Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajarathinam and putting him away for more than 10 years; and after pursuing the case against IMF boss Dominique Strauss Kahn (which incidentally was dismissed), Bharara was looking for another scalp and now he has one: Devayani Khobragade”.

Bharara has denied wanting to run for any office, but the New York Times suggests his style has an uncanny similarity to former New York Governor Rudy Giuliani who held the same post in the 1980s and used it to hunt down corrupt politicians and as a springboard to public office. In fact, one of judges hearing a case argued by Bharara’s office mocked publicly at the purple prose in a press release issued by Bharara and commented that it seemed to be for ‘tabloid consumption”. The paragraph read out by the judge went thus: “Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government. The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself”.





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