Devyani Khobragade gets back to India

I.S. Saluja

NEW YORK (TIP): Soon after she got full diplomatic immunity Wednesday, January 8, Devyani Khobragade left for New Delhi, January 9. External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi issued her transfer orders earlier in the day. Sources, on condition of anonymity, have confirmed the departure of Devyani on the evening of January 9. A US state department official said Ms Khobragade was asked to leave the United States after India had refused a request to lift her diplomatic immunity. The charges against her remain in place, the official said.

Devyani’s departure from New York brings down curtain on just one scene. The play is likely to continue. It will be interesting to watch how the curtain finally comes down on the sordid drama that has caused anguish to a senior Indian diplomat and strained relations between two friendly countries. Devyani Khobragade was charged by a federal grand jury in Manhattan with visa fraud and making false statements in a case that has triggered an outcry in India.

She’s accused of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her New York City housekeeper. The indictment said Khobragade had made multiple false representations to US authorities, or caused them to be made, to obtain a visa for a personal domestic worker. She planned to bring the worker the United States in September 2012 when she worked at the Consulate General of India in New York, according to the indictment. Khobragade, 39, India’s deputy consul general in New York, has maintained her innocence to accusations that she claimed to pay her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually gave her far less than the US minimum wage.

Her arrest last month sparked outrage in India after revelations that she was strip-searched and thrown in a cell with other criminal defendants before being released on $250,000 bail. In a letter to the judge, prosecutors said there was no need for an arraignment because Khobragade had “very recently” been given diplomatic immunity status and left the United States on Thursday, January 9. The letter said the charges will remain pending until she can be brought to court to face them, either through a waiver of immunity or on her return to the US without immunity status.

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“We will alert the court promptly if we learn that the defendant returns to the United States in a non-immune capacity, at which time the government will proceed to prosecute this case and prove the charges in the indictment,” the letter from the office of US attorney Preet Bharara said. The timeline of the case:- ● 23 June: Maid Sangeeta Richard goes missing. Ms Khobragade informs Office of the Foreign Missions and New York police
● 8 July: India revokes Richard’s passport, says she’s staying in the US illegally; Khobragade accuses her of theft and attempt to blackmail
● 4 September: US state department asks Indian embassy to inquire into Richard’s allegations disputing her terms of employment
● 8 October: Indian embassy writes to state department explaining facts of the case and accusing Richard of “seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws”
● 19 November: A Delhi court issues warrant for arrest of Sangeeta Richard
● 6 December: India forwards the warrant to the US embassy in Delhi and the state department
● 10 December: Richard’s husband and children fly to the US
● 12 December: Khobragade arrested in New York, produced in court and released on a $250,000 bond
● 8 January: US State Department grants immunity to Khobragade. It then asked Khobragade to leave the United States on Thursday, January 9, after India had refused a request to lift her diplomatic immunity so that she could be tried.
● 9 January: Khobragade leaves New York for India by an evening flight of Air India.

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