Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was made aware of the details of the Devyani Khobragade case only days ahead of the Indian Deputy Consul General's arrest on December 12, it has emerged, contrary to media reports suggesting that he had pursued this case from the start to fulfil “political ambitions.”
Ms. Khobragade faces criminal charges — a felony — for making material false statements on a visa application form and for visa fraud, both relating to allegations that she underpaid her domestic assistant, Indian national Sangeeta Richard.
Indian-American Bharara, who in the days following Ms. Khobragade’s arrest stoutly defended the U.S. government's pursuit of the case against her, has faced a wave of criticism in India.
He has variously been labelled an “Uncle Tom” in social media and had his motives questioned for going after prominent South Asians in the U.S. such as hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam and former Mckinsey and Company boss Rajat Gupta.
Yet, it was clear this week that he was not involved in playing a prominent role in directing the investigation of the Khobragade case, which was apparently the job of other U.S. federal agencies, nor even apprised of certain details of the case until very shortly before the arrest of the senior diplomat.
Soon after Ms. Khobragade's arrest and strip-search during detention by the U.S. Marshals Service, a storm of controversy erupted in India over her treatment, prompting New Delhi to withdraw a host of privileges afforded to U.S. diplomats in retaliation, including removal of security barriers outside the U.S. embassy there.
An Indian diplomat who had served in the U.S. was quoted saying, “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 Rajaratnam and... IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn, Bharara was looking for another scalp. Now, he has one...”
With Secretary of State John Kerry expressing “regret” for the way Ms. Khobragade was treated, Mr. Bharara hit back at media criticism saying, “One wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?”