Key communications in Khobragade case revealed

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17khobragadeTwo important letters in the case of Devyani Khobragade, India’s former Deputy Consul General in New York, have been published by media in India.

The first, dated September 4, 2013, is a two-page note from the U.S. State Department stating details of the allegations made against the senior diplomat by her domestic employee Sangeeta Richard, and the second, October 8, 2013, is a four-page response by the Indian Embassy here, explaining the existing charges in India against Ms. Richard.

Ms. Khobragade was arrested on the streets of New York City on December 12, 2013, and her subsequent strip-search in the custody of U.S. Marshals sparked off a diplomatic crisis between New Delhi and Washington, with India undertaking retaliatory measures such as removing security barriers to the U.S. Embassy there.

In its letter the State Department’s Assistant Chief of Protocol Gladys Boluda wrote to erstwhile Indian Ambassador in the U.S., Nirupama Rao, that it requested a voluntary meeting between Ms. Khobragade and representatives of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, so that Ms. Khobragade, who was indicted in January on criminal charges linked to visa fraud, could respond to the allegations made by Ms. Richard.

Further, Ms. Boluda informed Ambassador Rao of a two-week deadline for the Indian side to submit its findings to the State Department and necessary documentation in this context.

While there were subsequent suggestions that no indication had been made of potential action against Ms. Khobragade, this letter says, “The allegations are of considerable concern to the Department of State and consequently the Department requests that the Embassy look into these matters on an urgent basis and inform the Department of its findings.”

Additionally the State Department noted that it would “take this opportunity to remind the Embassy that U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to ‘suspend for such period as the Secretary determines necessary, the issuance of A-3 visas or G-5 visas to applicants seeking to work for officials of a diplomatic mission or international organization, if the Secretary determines that there is credible evidence that one or more employees of such mission or international organization have abused or exploited one or more non-immigrants holding an A-3 or G-5 visa, and that the diplomatic mission or international organization tolerated such actions.”

Further, the State Department directly referenced its expectation that foreign diplomats on U.S. soil pay their staff “the greater of the U.S. federal or state minimum wage, or the prevailing wage in the area, and are required to retain records of daily and weekly hours worked… and proof of wage payments made…”

In its reply, the Indian Embassy said that Ms. Richard’s allegations against her former employer “are issues that are relevant to the relationship between the Government of India and its employees” and “not subject to U.S. regulation or adjudication”.

The embassy added that the Delhi High Court was had issued an anti-suit injunction restraining Ms. Richard from approaching any U.S. court and “It cannot be the argument of any party that a foreign government must adjudicate in a matter between Indian citizens that stands placed before the judiciary of India.”

The embassy further exhorted the State Department to help facilitate the repatriation of Ms. Richard to India, arguing, “It is evident that the purpose of Ms. Richard’s consent to a contractual agreement… was apparently intended only to find a way to illegally immigrate to the U.S.”

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