Washington, DC – The Indian Embassy in Washington, DC confirmed to news media on Thursday evening (December 12) that one of its top officials in New York City was arrested this morning and later released.
The statement said, “We have been informed that Deputy Consul General of India in New York, Dr. Devyani Khobragade, was taken into custody by law enforcement authorities in New York in the morning of December 12, 2013 while she was dropping her daughter at school. Dr. Khobragade was later released that same evening.”
The Indian diplomat was held on charges that she allegedly caused a materially false and fraudulent document to be presented, and materially false and fraudulent statements to be made, to the US Department of State in support of a visa application for an the Indian national employed as a babysitter and housekeeper at Khobragade’s home in New York City.
Regarding the arrest of Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women’s Affairs at the Consulate General of India in New York, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said, “Foreign nationals brought to the US to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to US citizens.”
The US Attorney Bharara added, “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.”
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court, Khobragade prepared and electronically submitted an application for an A-3 visa, which is a US visa for domestic workers and servants, through the website for the US Department of State’s Consular Electronic Application Center for an Indian national who was to be the personal employee of Khobragade beginning in November 2012.
The visa application stated that the Indian worker employed by Khobragade was to be paid $4,500 per month. According to an employment contract, Khobragade would pay the domestic help the prevailing or minimum wage, whichever is greater, resulting in an hourly salary of $9.75.
However, the domestic worker, who was employed from approximately November 2012 through June 2013, worked far more than 40 hours per week and was paid less than the promised $9.75 per hour.
The Indian Embassy provided a different version of events, saying, “Action was apparently taken against Dr. Khobragade on the basis of allegations raised by the officer’s former India-based domestic assistant, Ms. 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. Richards 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,” the Indian Embassy statement concluded.
The statement noted, “The Embassy of India in Washington, DC had immediately conveyed its strong concern to the US 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.”