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MEA statement on Devyani Khobragade case

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Dec 19, 2013 at 04:57pm IST

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The arrest of India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, has threatened to affect the Indo-US ties with New Delhi publicly hitting out at Washington over the development. Khobragade, was strip-searched, cavity-searched and swabbed for DNA after her arrest in New York last week on charges of visa fraud and under-paying her maid. The 39-year-old was confined with criminals before being released on a $250,000 bail. Following the incident, privileges given to the US diplomats in India were pared down, including withdrawal of diplomatic ID cards issued by the Indian government, taking away airport passes and withdrawing extra security barricades outside the US embassy.

Key points in DCG, New York's case

Entry into US in November 2012: IBDA accompanied DCG to NY in end-November 2012.

MEA statement on Devyani Khobragade case

The 39-year-old was confined with criminals before being released on a $250,000 bail.

IBDA missing (23 June 2013): Found missing on 23 June 2013. Her husband said he had no idea where she was. A few days earlier, IBDA had sought DCG's permission to take up a job outside; DCG had declined permission for such illegal employment.

OFM informed (24 June): Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) in NY was informed and help requested to trace her.

Passport and ID revoked (8 July): On 8 July, the IBDA's passport was revoked by the Consulate and notice for termination of her Personal ID was also given to OFM wef 22 June 2013. The IBDA was now staying illegally in the US.

Difficulties faced by DCG in filing a Missing Persons Report with NYPD

Missing Persons Report: At OFM's advice, DCG went to lodge a missing person report at the concerned Police Precinct, but was told that she could not register the complaint since the IBDA was an adult and such a report could only be lodged by a member of her family.

Mr. Richard, her husband refuses to file Missing Persons Report: DCG requested the assistance of Mr. Richard as her husband, for registering the missing person's report. He refused to cooperate.

Letter to Police requesting filing of Missing Persons Report (25 June): Since the police refused to register a missing person report, DCG sent a letter to the Precinct on 25 June requesting them to file a missing person report and trace the IBDA.

DCG's Interview: After much further efforts to pursue this, NYPD sought inspection of her residence. As diplomatic premises are out of bounds for local law enforcement agencies, DCG was interviewed in front of the PMI (her residence). Only after this, a missing person's report was finally filed by the NYPD.

IBDA's demands for money, new passport and US visa

IBDA's demands (1 July): On 1 July 2013, a woman claiming to be the IBDA's lawyer told DCG that the IBDA would not go to Court only if: (i) CGI, New York would sign a 566 form authorizing the IBDA to terminate her employment, (ii) change her visa status from a Government visa to a normal visa and (iii) be compensated for 19 hours of work per day. DCG refused to negotiate with her on phone and insisted that the caller first identify herself; the caller disconnected the phone call after this.

Meeting with IBDA (8 July): On 8 July 2013, DCG was called to "Access Immigration", an immigration lawyer's office, to discuss the terms of settlement with the IBDA. DCG accompanied by the Consulate officers met the IBDA whose demand was for a payment of $ 10,000, grant of an ordinary Indian passport along with whatever immigration relief was required to stay in the US on that ordinary passport. CGI officials conveyed that under no circumstance could she remain in the US without legal authorization and that as per her contract with DCG, she should return to India, after which the matter could be further investigated. She was told that any argument over salary or working hours could be settled in the Consulate before her return to India. The IBDA refused, saying that she wanted to remain in the US.

DCG's complaint to NYPD about IBDA's demands, with no action on the part of NYPD

IBDA's demands conveyed to OFM (2 July): On 2 July 2013, CGI conveyed the above developments to OFM in writing and solicited NYPDs support in ascertaining the identity of the caller and her links with the IBDA, given that the conversations clearly indicated that Ms. Richard had no intention of returning to India and seemed keen to extort money by making false accusations. No action was taken

Extortion complaint filed by DCG with NYPD (5 July): On 5th July, DCG registered a complaint with the NYPD for the crime of "aggravated harassment" with respect to the phone call received on 1t July for extortion and blackmail. No action was taken by NYPD on the request.

Felony/theft ("grand larceny") charge filed against IBDA (8 July): On 8 July, DCG's husband reported to NYPD the theft of cash, blackberry phone, two sim cards, metro card (valued at $113) and documents such as contracts, signed receipt book cum working-hour log by Ms. Sangeeta Richard. No action has been taken on this.

Legal complaints filed by DCG in India against IBDA

Complaint to New Delhi Police (2 July): on 2 July, DCG filed a written complaint with New Delhi police against her IBDA Ms. Sangeeta Richard and her husband Mr. Philip Richard accusing them of false promise and cheating under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and asking the police to book them for the offence and recover the official passport of the IBDA.

FIR in India (5 July): Since the IBDA's husband Mr. Richard did not file any missing persons report in India or support DCG in her efforts to locate his wife indicating that the family was complicit with the IBDA, on MEA's advice, DCG filed a FIR in Delhi on 5 July against the family for wilful deceit and attempt to cheat to illegally immigrate to the US by wrongful means.

Anti-suit Injunction (20 September): Based on MEA's advice, DCG also filed for an anticipatory anti-suit injunction in the Delhi High Court so as to prevent filing of any case in the US by the IBDA and to avoid ensuing litigation in the US. On 20 September 2013, the Delhi High Court issued an ex-parte ad interim injunction against Mrs Sangeeta Richard and Mr. Philip Richard restraining them from initiating any legal action or proceedings against DCG in any Court/Tribunal/Forum outside India with regard to her employment with DCG. The final hearing in the matter was scheduled for 13th December 2013.

Arrest Warrant against IBDA (19 November): On 19 November 2013, the Metropolitan Magistrate of South District, New Delhi, issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Ms. Sangeeta Richard.

Writ Petition filed and subsequently withdrawn by Mr. Richard against DCG in Delhi High Court (15 and 19 July): On 15 July 2013, Mr. Philip Richard filed a Writ Petition against DCG and the Union of India alleging that Mrs. Sangeeta Richard was in police custody in New York since 8 July 2013 and charging DCG of 'slave labour' and illegally making the IBDA sign a 'second contract' with far less pay and perks. The Union of India was accused of not paying according to the requirements of the local law. On 19 July 2013, Mr. Richard withdrew his writ petition. It was dismissed by the High Court.

MEA's requests for State Department's assistance

(5 July) US Embassy in Delhi requested for help: Mr. Michael Phillips, Director (Human Resources) in the US Embassy in New Delhi was called in by Director (AMS), MEA, and briefed about DCG's missing IBDA, the reports filed with the State Department and NYPD and the FIR filed in India against the IBDA. The assistance of the State Department and the US Embassy was emphatically solicited in locating the IBDA and sending her back to India to pre-empt this being used as an immigration channel. The US Embassy conveyed its understanding and promised to follow up with the State Department and local authorities. However, there was no feedback received on our request for help.

State Department requested for help: Similar requests were made consistently by the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. to the State Department in Washington D.C.

DCG's request to OFM (30 July): On 30 July 2013, CGI forwarded a copy of Mr. Richard's writ petition to OFM which states that the IBDA was in police custody in New York and based on this, asked OFM to produce the IBDA in the Consulate so that she could be repatriated to India as had been requested by her husband in his writ petition. CGI also informed that she was last seen at the office of Access Immigration on 8 July 2013. No action was taken by the US side on the request.

State Department's letter to Ambassador (4 September): While there was no response to our requests, on the contrary, the US State Department issued a one-sided letter addressed to our Ambassador on 4 September 2013, projecting the allegations of the IBDA which were of "considerable concern" to the State Department and asked the Embassy to investigate the allegations. It also sought a voluntary meeting between DCG and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in the State Department as well as proof of payment of minimum wages from the Embassy.

MEA's response: On 10 September, JS (AMS) called in the US Embassy DCM and Head of the Human Resources Division in the US Embassy and strongly protested against the tone and content of the letter. He highlighted the points made in our reply to the letter sent subsequently on 21 September.

MEA's reply to the Letter: On 21 September 2013, a reply was sent to the State Department by our Embassy rebutting the allegations and bringing out the facts of the case while highlighting the fact that Mrs. Richard was seeking a monetary settlement and a US visa, thereby seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws. The letter also emphasized that the matter was an issue between GOI and one of its employees and was not subject to US regulation or adjudication. Assistance of the State Department was also sought in locating and repatriating Ms. Richard to India.

Request to US authorities to effect Arrest warrant against IBDA (6 December): On 6 December 2013, the arrest warrant issued by the Delhi Metropolitan court was forwarded to the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi requesting them to instruct the relevant authorities in the US to arrest and repatriate Ms. Sangeeta Richard to India through the Consulate in New York, so that due process of law may be prosecuted in India. No action was taken in this regard by the US side.

Arrest of DCG

Arrest of DCG: Instead of arresting the IBDA to effect the arrest warrant issued by an Indian Court as requested by us, DCG was arrested by the Diplomatic Security Service on 12 December 2013 when she went to drop her daughter to school in New York on the basis of a Second District court warrant for visa fraud.

Immunity denied under VCCR: The DSS person informed DCG that she did not have immunity under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) for this as it was a felony charge and that both the State Department and the Department of Justice were consulted to ascertain this. DCG conveyed that she should not handcuffed and that she was coming voluntarily. After reaching the police station, she was strip searched by a lady officer and was sent to a holding cell where she was kept with two other lady convicts. When she was produced before the judge, she was handcuffed. The authorities claimed that both the strip search and handcuffing were as per their procedure.

Bail: Bail was posted for USD 250,000/- and she was released on unsecured bonds. Her passport has been retained by the police authorities and she has been asked not to leave the country or seek another travel document. She can travel within the US after notifying the authorities. She has been asked not to be in touch with Ms. Sangeeta Richards.

Hearing/Pre-Trial: The next date of hearing has been fixed as 13 Jan 2014, but her Attorney claimed that he was not free on that day and was negotiating another date, which will be known in due course. A pre-trial process has commenced on 16 December 2013 where a urine sample was taken by US authorities for testing for drugs.

GOI Reaction

GoI reaction: Foreign Secretary summoned the US ambassador on 13 December, to express shock over the way DCG had been humiliated by the US authorities. The MEA spokesperson also made a statement along these lines.

EAM's meeting with US CODEL: In his meeting with the visiting US Congressional delegation (CODEL) on 16 December 2013, EAM registered India's strong protest against the arrest of DCG and the manner in which it was carried out.

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