Indian Diplomat Indicted In Visa Fraud Case, Leaves U.S.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Indian diplomat accused of lying about how much she paid her nanny was indicted in New York City on Thursday and left the United States on official orders, after officials in India refused to waive her diplomatic immunity.
Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest triggered an outcry in India, is charged with visa fraud and making false statements.
Authorities ordered Khobragade to leave the United States. She had left as of shortly before 11 p.m.
Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, allegedly lied on a visa application for her nanny.
The indictment released on Thursday claims Khobragade created a second agreement with the victim after she submitted a falsified visa application that set the true terms of employment, including a wage of $573 per month, regardless of overtime hours.
The second agreement lacked other legally required protections for the victim, the indictment said. It also claims Khobragade specifically deleted a provision acknowledging that she agrees to abide by all federal, state and local laws within the U.S.
According to the indictment, once they arrived in the U.S., Khobragade made the victim work up to 100 hours or more per week without any days off, which, based on the promised salary of $573 per month, would result in an hourly wage of $1.42 or less.
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.
“I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping, and cavity searches — swabbing — in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity,” Khobragade said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara defended the actions taken in Khobragade’s arrest, saying the arresting officers “arrested her in the most discreet way possible.”
Khobragade’s attorney, Daniel Arshack, took aim at Bharara and his office in a statement after Khobragade’s departure late Thursday.
Arshack’s statement took issue with an afternoon update from the U.S. Attorney’s office, which indicated the office believed Khobragade had left the country when in fact, she had not.
“We are pleased that the United States Department of State did the right thing today by recognizing the diplomatic status to which Dr. Khobragade has always been entitled,” Arshack said in the statement. “The Prosecutor’s false statement this afternoon that Dr. Khobragade had left the country is emblematic of the series of blunders which has contributed to the false charges brought against her.”
Arshack accused Bharara of knowing Khobragade was in the country and “falsely” claiming otherwise.
“The truth is, and the prosecutor’s office well knows it, that Dr. Khobragade was in the country when Preet Bharara falsely claimed otherwise. Why would they make that up? Where is the apology?” Arshack said in the statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s office had not issued a response to the statement late Thursday, but earlier indicated that the report that Khobragade had left in the afternoon was in error.
“In a letter sent to the Court upon the filing of the Indictment of Ms. Khobragade, we stated our understanding that she had left the country,” the office said Thursday afternoon. “Subsequent to the filing of the letter, Ms. Khobragade’s lawyer advised that she has not, in fact, departed the U.S.”
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors and attorneys for Khobragade had come to an impasse over a possible plea deal. Khobragade’s attorneys accused the prosecution of trying to pressure her into pleading guilty by next week.
Khobragade is based on the Upper East Side and has focused on women’s issues.
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