Washington, Dec 19: Disputing State Department’s claim that the Indian embassy was warned in September of imminent action against Devyani Khobragade, Indian officials insist it was part of a conrrespondence regarding her “missing” housekeeper who the embassy accused of “blackmailing” her employer and sought her arrest as she was subverting “both Indian and US laws.”
In fact, the Indian embassy here as also the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi have been taking up the matter of Khobragade’s domestic help Sangeeta Richard from June with the State Department and the US embassy in New Delhi, officials said.
The Sep 4 letter from the State Department requested the embassy to enquire into the allegations brought in by Richard disputing her terms of employment with Khobragade and seeking the findings of the embassy, it said. In response, the Indian side, both in New Delhi and in Washington, reiterated the requests pending with the US side in this regard since June 2013.
These included assistance in tracing Richard, who had had entered the US with an official Indian passport and was found missing on June 23. This was reported immediately to the Office of the Foreign Missions in New York and New York Police Department.
The embassy said it also sought action against “blackmailing by Richard demanding that she be permitted to change her passport, visa status and to work elsewhere, which would be in violation of US regulations.” It also wanted assistance in repatriating Richard as her passport was revoked on July 8 and is since staying in the US illegally.
The Indian embassy also sought the arrest of Richard, alleging she had taken cash, mobile phone and documents from Khobragade’s residence.
On Oct 8, the embassy said, it sent a written response to the State Department rebutting Richard’s allegation and “bringing out the facts of the case whereby Richard is seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws.”
The US side was also requested to assist in implementing an injunction issued on Sep 20, by the Delhi High Court against Richard restraining her from initiating any legal action against Khobragade outside India. Separately, on July 15 Sangeeta Richard’s husband Philip Richard filed a writ petition against Khobragade and the Union of India alleging that Sangeeta Richard was in police custody in New York and charging Khobragade, the embassy said.
But on July 19, Richard voluntarily withdrew his writ petition, it said.
The State Department was thus requested to assist in locating and repatriating Richard to India.
On Nov 19, the Metropolitan Magistrate of South District, New Delhi issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Richard.
On Dec 6, the arrest warrant was forwarded to the State Department nd to the US Embassy in New Delhi requesting them to instruct the relevant authorities in the US to arrest and repatriate Richard to India through the Indian Consulate in New York.
But no response was received from the US side for any of these communications, the embassy said and instead Khobragade was arrested on Dec 12.
The State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, however, still asserted that the arrest should not have come as a surprise as it had notified the Indian embassy on Sep 4 about the allegations against Khobragade.
The Indian mission, she told reporters Wednesday, was advised as part of “State Department policy to advise foreign missions of allegations made involving a member of a mission or a family member.” But the State Department advice was “entirely separate from the law enforcement process that is an important one of looking into these allegations.”
“And then if the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York think there should be charges brought, obviously that’s a totally separate process,” she said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)