Amid the outrage over the arrest and subsequent treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara on Thursday defended the action against her and confirmed that her domestic help’s family has been “evacuated” from India.
Acknowledging that the family of Sangeeta Richard, who was employed by Khobragade, has been brought to the US, Bharara said a legal process was started in India to “silence her and attempts were made to compel her to return to India”.
A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges. In her complaint, Richard accused the diplomat of violating US laws by underpaying her and forcing her to work for 19 hours a day.
In a three-page statement here, Bharara said Richard’s family was confronted in numerous ways regarding this case. “Some focus should perhaps be put on why it was necessary to evacuate the family and what actions were taken in India vis-a-vis them. This office and the Justice Department are compelled to make sure that the victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending,” he said.
“This office’s sole motivation in this case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law — no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are,” he said.
Bharara said Khobragade evaded US laws designed to protect the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers from exploitation. Rebutting reports of the diplomat not being given proper treatment, he claimed she was “accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded.”
The US prosecutor denied that she was arrested in front of her children and handcuffed. “She was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children. The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained,” he said.
“In fact, the arresting officers did not even seize her phone as they normally would have. Instead, they offered her the opportunity to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and contact whomever she needed, including allowing her to arrange for child care,” he said.
Bharara said the entire process lasted approximately two hours and since it was cold outside, the agents let