U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, the court prosecuting Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade (39) for alleged visa fraud, in a statement on Wednesday denied that she was handcuffed during her arrest last week and suggested that the U.S. had to evacuate the family of Ms. Khobragade’s domestic employee from India because their safety had been compromised.
In the first such statement, which goes beyond the factual releases made by the State Department on the case against India’s Deputy Consul General, Mr. Bharara also said that there had been “much misinformation and factual inaccuracy” in reporting on the criminal charges against Ms. Khobragade.
In particular his statement focussed on the charge that Ms. Khobragade “clearly tried to evade U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers,” an allusion to the alleged disparities in how much she paid to her employee, Sangeeta Richard, relative to what was agreed in a contract between them submitted to the State Department to get Ms. Richard an A-3 domestic worker visa.
Mr. Bharara said Ms. Richard was allegedly paid “far below minimum wage,” despite working well in excess of the 40 hours per week she was contracted to work, and she had also been charged with creating “a second contract that was not to be revealed to the U.S. government … and also deleted language that stated that Ms. Khobragade agreed to ‘abide by all Federal, state, and local laws in the U.S’.”
On the circumstances of Ms. Khobragade’s arrest, he said the Deputy Consul General was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, including American citizens, and “she was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children.” The officers had carried out the arrest “in the most discreet way possible,” sparing her any form of restraint such as handcuffs and allowing her the use of her telephone for two hours after the arrest.
“Because it was cold outside, the agents let her make those calls from their car and even brought her coffee and offered to get her food,” Mr. Bharara added, however corroborating the U.S. Marshals Service statement that the Indian diplomat had been strip-searched by a female Deputy Marshal in a private setting.