US lawyer: Devyani Khobragade indictment raises contradictory questions
The indictment against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud and making false statements by a US grand jury has a number of contradictions
Washington: The indictment against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud and making false statements by a US grand jury has a number of contradictions and raises many questions as well, a prominent Indian-American attorney has said.
Federal prosecutor has based his allegations solely on account of 39-year-old Khobragade’s maid Sangeeta Richard and has not taken into consideration the fact that it was the domestic worker who misrepresented the facts before the US Embassy in New Delhi when she went for a visa interview, Ravi Batra said after a thorough study of the 21-page indictment.
Arrested on December 12, Khobragade was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.
Based in New York, Batra had successfully represented the former Indian Consul General Prabhu Dayal against allegations of sexual exploitation by his maid.
“The core problem here is that Sangeeta willfully, voluntarily and with free will entered into three contracts: an oral contract followed by two written agreements, with the first and third contracts each calling for Rs 30,000 to be paid per month. Then, Sangeeta, alone, was twice interviewed by the US Embassy to negotiate the fraud upon the US Embassy, aided by her-executed Fake Contract, and Sangeeta did so successfully,” Batra told PTI.
“Of course, once Sangeeta agreed to work as Devyani’s domestic worker, Sangeeta gave her ‘Blue’ passport to Devyani, who then got Sangeeta her Official ‘White’ passport, with obvious ‘cancellation’ of the Blue passport,” he said.
Sangeeta then traveled on her White passport on November 24, 2013 to New York, and later it was missing, as reported in the FIR when she left Devyani’s home in June 2013, he added.
“Hence, the claim that Devyani, was somehow preventing Sangeeta from traveling on her Blue passport is incomprehensible – as Sangeeta had her White passport, which Sangeeta knew, she could not use to go back to India, given her violation of her employment-terms,” Batra alleged.
“Additionally, with an arrest warrant for Sangeeta issued on November 19, 2013, by the Delhi High Court and her husband listed as an Accused #2, Sangeeta’s claimed desire to return to India is not credible,” Batra claims, referring to the allegations made by the federal prosecutor in the indictment that the maid wanted to return to India.
“Finally, since Philip Richard was an employee of the US Embassy in Delhi, Sangeeta was always empowered to seek advice and counsel from Philip’s employer, prior to her entering into two contracts for Rs 30,000,” Batra said.
Relying solely upon Sangeeta’s unadorned word, the indictment accuses Devyani of overworking and exploiting her and lists hours she claims to have worked – as much as “94 to 109″ hours a week, including Sundays, he said, adding that the hours claimed by Sangeeta could be challenged.
Batra also questions the US decision to give T-visa to the family members of Sangeeta.
“That our State Department required our Justice Department to file criminal charges against Devyani, while giving Sangeeta and family a T-visa, under these circumstances is nothing short of an avoidable itch becoming a roaring rash.
“Sinful human trafficking, modern day slavery, this is not – no matter the powerful incentive of getting a T-visa causing one to fake being trafficked.”