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Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade indicted, but allowed to leave the US

Indian Diplomat in 'Nannygate' Case Indicted

NEW DELHI (AP) -- An Indian envoy whose arrest and strip search in New York City caused a diplomatic furor was heading home Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan and then ordered to leave the country.

The case has caused a serious rift between the United States and India, which described Devyani Khobragade's treatment as outrageous and heavy-handed. She had been facing charges of underpaying her Indian-born housekeeper and lying about it on a visa form.

Her departure from the U.S. could signal a cooling of tensions and give both countries a way to claim victory, although her father said in a televised news conference Friday that the case was a triumph for India.

"Devyani today left the U.S. with full diplomatic immunity , vindicating the stand that whatever dispute being raised in the U.S. is a prerogative of sovereign country, India, and only can be adjudicated by Indian courts," said her father, Uttam Khobragade, a retired bureaucrat.

The issue of immunity is key to the case, which erupted a month ago when Devyani Khobragade (dayv-YAHN'-ee KOH'-bruh-gah-day), a 39-year-old mother of two, was arrested. She was strip-searched and kept in a cell with other criminal defendants before being released on $250,000 bail.

In recent weeks, federal officials have said that Khobragade's immunity is limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions. But on Thursday, a U.S. government official in Washington said the U.S. had accepted India's request to accredit her to the United Nations, which confers broader immunity.

It would be almost unprecedented for the U.S. to deny such a request unless the diplomat was a national security risk.

India Diplomat Arrest

The United States then asked the government of India to waive the newly granted immunity so they could prosecute her, but the Indians refused. The U.S. then "requested her departure" from the country, said one American government official, who wasn't authorized to speak about the case publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Authorities say Khobragade claimed to pay her Indian maid $4,500 per month but gave her far less than the U.S. minimum wage. The indictment said Khobragade had made multiple false representations to U.S. authorities, or caused them to be made, to obtain a visa for a personal domestic worker. She planned to bring the worker to the United States in September 2012 when she worked at the Consulate General of India in New York, according to the indictment.

Khobragade, who served as India's deputy consul general in New York, has maintained her innocence.

Khobragade's lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said his client was "pleased to be returning to her country."

"Her head is held high," he said. "She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known."

The case has caused an outcry in India, where officials say Khobragade is the victim and was being blackmailed by her maid.

The government in New Delhi has unleashed a steady stream of retaliatory measures. Some of the moves, such as preventing the American Center in New Delhi from screening movies, are seen as little more than needling the U.S. But other actions have raised some alarm, including the removal of concrete traffic barriers around the U.S. Embassy and revoking diplomats' ID cards.

The maid, Sangeeta Richard, said in her first public statements on Thursday that she had decided to come to the U.S. to work for a few years to support her family and then return to India.

"I never thought that things would get so bad here, that I would work so much that I did not have time to sleep or eat or have time to myself," she said in a statement released by the anti-trafficking group Safe Horizon.

She said she tried to return to India because of how she'd been treated but her request was denied.

"I would like to tell other domestic workers who are suffering as I did - you have rights and do not let anyone exploit you," said Richard, who has been vilified in India and accused of blackmailing her employer.

In a letter to the judge on Thursday, prosecutors said there was no need for an arraignment because Khobragade had "very recently" been given diplomatic immunity status.

The charges will remain pending until she can be brought to court to face them, through a waiver of immunity or her return to the U.S. without immunity status, the letter from the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Join the discussion

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WELCOME MAGDICS January 10 2014 at 7:14 AM

Imagine a country that still has a "caste system in place"would blame a maid of blackmail,how absurd !Are you kidding me.Go to India 5 blocks from the Taj Mahal and see how properous and modernized the country is.They (Upper "caste" Indians)have a full blown slavery regimen in exixtence to this day.Get real people!

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mspat1001 January 10 2014 at 7:53 AM

I don't think that third eye is open.

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ME January 10 2014 at 7:32 AM

in India they do pay their help very low wages.. really not enough for a family to live off of.. to them they think it is ok and they done nothing wrong....they think the people who has money is way above the ones who doesnt...

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1 reply
Al Pi ME January 10 2014 at 8:09 AM

Caste system!

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god is dead January 10 2014 at 7:44 AM

This lady basically kept a slave and she's gonna get off because she has political influence. She should be stripped of her position as a diplomat.

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thundersstruck04 January 10 2014 at 7:51 AM

get diplomatic immunity then you can have slave labor in the US!!!!

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1 reply
Brett Losey thundersstruck04 January 10 2014 at 7:58 AM

Its not slave labor. The minimum wage in India is $0.28 per hour. So this gal was being paid over 10x's her country's minimum wage.

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3 replies
salas888xs January 10 2014 at 7:25 AM

Likes like the case is closed, reading between the lines. Geopolitics and trade speak louder than a case involving a lowly ranked Indian diplomat of "consular" status only. So, big deal! India has hardly been victorious in this, with yet more than mud sticking to its face given what the world knows of India's chronic caste/class prejudice, which this consular thought fit to "export" to the West, India's deeply embedded religious bigotry (bigotry is a religion in itself in India), gender prejudice, including the routine brutalising of Indian women's rights (unless the women hail from a privileged class), and massive corruption from the pinnacle of government down to the lowest strata of "society".

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anvmd January 10 2014 at 7:22 AM

Let her go back to her hypocritic country and good riddance. Why keep her here and pay for her jail time? We already have enough freeloaders. India is a country of the have's and have nots (mostly) - that's how they are raised from birth.

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1 reply
motorprops anvmd January 10 2014 at 7:34 AM

The US has become a country of the have and have nots(mostly) thats how they are raised from birth.

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NicktheMan January 10 2014 at 7:40 AM

They don't give a rats a@@ about the Indian maid. What really has them steamed was when they learned that this consular appointee was detained and "strip searched". If India is so easily provoked, there is more going on here than meets the eye. I think they should look inside their own country and correct the myriad of injustices to its own people before they go around pointing fingers at others. The maid was fully within her rights to question the pay rate. This Khobragade woman was in the wrong, she knew it, and then gets angry when caught. Grow up and face the music, or don't come here.

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butz5430 January 10 2014 at 7:16 AM

Who needs India?

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pasylvain January 10 2014 at 7:40 AM

This is ridiculous !!!! If an American committed a crime there, I am more than sure they would have to do the time. For example, in Italy they are still after poor Amanda Knox. The U.S. should make her be held accountable for her actions.

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