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This post was edited by jay_dee at 2014-1-10 07:07|
The Indian deputy consul whose arrest and strip-search in New York touched off a diplomatic spat between the U.S. and India has been indicted — and she has been asked to leave the country.
A federal grand jury charged Devyani Khobragade with visa fraud and making a false statement for allegedly providing bogus information to get papers for a housekeeper she wanted to bring from India to the U.S. and pay less than minimum wage.
In a letter to the court, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said there was no need to schedule an arraignment, saying Khobragade had received diplomatic immunity status and had left the U.S. — though he apparently jumped the gun.
Khobragade's lawyer said in a statement that she had not gone anywhere and was "at home with her children." He did not say if she planned to leave.
A U.S. government official confirmed to NBC News that Khobragade was given diplomatic immunity after the Indian government moved her from her post at the Indian Consulate in New York to the Indian Mission to the United Nations.
The U.S. asked for a waiver of that immunity so Khobragade could face the charges against her.
India denied the waiver, so the U.S. asked Khobragade to leave the country.
In his letter, the prosecutor said the charges would stand until she answered them in court.
Khobragade's lawyer did not have an immediate comment on the contents of the 20-page indictment, which accuses his client of creating a fake employment contract to obtain a visa for the domestic worker, Sangeet Richard, that claimed she would pay her $9.75 an hour for 40 hours of work a week.
In reality, the grand jury found, Khobragade had negotiated a secret deal with the maid to pay her just $3.33 an hour and ended up paying her less than $2 an hour by making her work 90-plus hours a week with no days off, including sick time.
"On two occasions when the victim became ill, the victim was not given a sick day," the indictment said. "On one occasion, the victim had to ask to see a doctor several times before Khobragade relented. Khobragade told the victim not to get sick because it was expensive."
"The victim was routinely called upon at all hours to perform her duties, which included caring for Khobragade's two children, cooking, and cleaning Khobragade's home."
The indictment also alleges that Khobragade, 39, confiscated Richard's passport and refused to return it and refused her requests to quit and return home to India.
In June, Richard left the home and turned to a nonprofit group that supports human trafficking victims, and Khobragade and other launched an intimidation campaign that culminated with the diplomat bringing charges of theft against the maid in India, the court papers say.
Bharara's office eventually arranged to have Richard's family brought to the U.S.