India expresses anger over fresh US charges against diplomat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 5:07am

India yesterday said it was "disappointed" by new US visa fraud charges against an Indian diplomat over her employment of a domestic servant and warned the move could reignite a bitter row between the countries.

Government spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India was "disappointed" the US Justice Department "chose to obtain a second indictment" against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade even though a US judge threw out similar charges earlier in the week.

"Any measures consequent to this decision in the US will unfortunately impact upon efforts on both sides to build the India-US strategic partnership, to which both sides are committed," the Indian spokesman warned.

A New York grand jury reindicted the senior diplomat, accusing her of two counts of visa fraud and making false statements.

Khobragade, who has since returned to India, was arrested on December 12 outside her children's school and later strip-searched.

The fresh charges came two days after a US judge threw out a previous case on grounds the former New York deputy consul-general was granted full diplomatic immunity after her arrest.

The new indictment paints a devastating picture of the lengths to which Khobragade allegedly went to infringe US laws in hiring an Indian nanny-cum-housekeeper when moving to New York in 2012.

US prosecutors, disputing her immunity, accuse Khobragade of forcing her maid to work 100 hours or more a week, even when sick and without a full day off, for US$1.42 or less an hour.

It says the diplomat drew up a fake contract that conformed with US labour law but made her sign another contract stipulating a salary of US$573 a month without overtime.