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Jan 13, 2014| Courtesy by : dailymail.co.uk
The Indian diplomat forced to leave the U.S. this week amid accusations of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her housekeeper has said she fears she may never get to be united with her family in the U.S.
Indian consulate official Devyani Khobragade was allowed to leave the country on Friday after a month-long dispute over her arrest and strip-search on suspicion of visa fraud involving her domestic servant.
She was granted full diplomatic immunity and allowed to fly back to India – just hours after charges were filed in court alleging she lodged false documents to obtain a visa for her servant and then underpaid her.
Khobragade, 39, has spoken to an Indian newspaper about her ‘immense stress’ at leaving behind her daughters – aged seven and four – in New York along with her husband, who is a U.S. citizen and works as an academic.
‘I wonder if I will be able to ever reunite with my family, my husband, my little kids. I miss them,’ she toldThe Sunday Express.
‘What if my children choose to study and work in the U.S.? What if I can never return to the U.S., which I cannot now. Does it mean we will never be able to live together as a family again?’ she said.
Khobragade told the newspaper that she plans to continue with her legal fight to clear her name, including attempt to have her case in New York officially dismissed in a federal court.
‘I know I am honest, and I will come out clean. But we do not know how much time it will take and for how long my family will have to suffer due to this,’ she added.
‘I have come to India but my stand still needs to be vindicated. And of course, I have been separated from my family, and I am under immense stress for my children,’ she said.
‘I spoke to my kids for hours last night, and they are already missing me. The four-year-old asked me, “Mommy, when will you be back home”, and I had no answer.’
Khobragade was charged on Thursday by a federal grand jury in Manhattan with visa fraud and making false statements in a case that has triggered an outcry in India.
She’s accused of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her New York City housekeeper.
The indictment said Khobragade had made multiple false representations to U.S. authorities, or caused them to be made, to obtain a visa for a personal domestic worker.
She planned to bring the worker to the United States in September 2012 when she worked at the Consulate General of India in New York, according to the indictment.
Khobragade, 39, India’s deputy consul general in New York, has maintained her innocence to accusations that she claimed to pay her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually gave her far less than the U.S. minimum wage.
Her arrest last month sparked outrage in India after revelations that she was strip-searched and thrown in a cell with other criminal defendants before being released on $250,000 bail.
In a letter to the judge, prosecutors said there was no need for an arraignment because Khobragade had ‘very recently’ been given diplomatic immunity status to leave the United States.
The letter said the charges will remain pending until she can be brought to court to face them, either through a waiver of immunity or her return to the U.S. without immunity status.
‘We will alert the court promptly if we learn that the defendant returns to the United States in a non-immune capacity, at which time the government will proceed to prosecute this case and prove the charges in the indictment,’ the letter from the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Devyani Khobragade was arrested last month after being accused of lying on a visa application for her housekeeper and paying her only $3 per hour
In an unusual statement last month, U.S. Attorney Bharara responded to what he described as misinformation and factual inaccuracy in the case by saying Khobragade was accused of creating false documents and lying to the U.S. government about what she was doing, including hiring a housekeeper who was working far more than the 40 hours per week she was contracted to work.
He also questioned why there was ‘precious little outrage’ about the treatment of the Indian housekeeper Sangeeta and her husband Philip Richard while there was so much about the alleged treatment of Khobragade.
He said his office’s sole motivation was to uphold the law, protect victims and hold lawbreakers accountable, ‘no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are’.
These developments came as it was revealed that a lawsuit filed months ago on behalf of the housekeeper alleged poor working conditions.
Philip Richard had filed a petition at the High Court in New Delhi in July saying that his wife was being worked from 6am to 11pm every day.
Mr Richard also said the consular official’s father Uttam Khobragade had threatened Mrs Richard’s family saying that he would have them abducted and framed on false drug charges.
In the petition, first seen by Outlookindia.com, a concerned Mr Richard wrote: ‘The treatment of Sangeeta by Devyani Khobragade is tantamount to keeping a person in slavery-like conditions or keeping a person in bondage.’
The petition also stated: ‘Uttam Khobragade called Sangeeta’s family several times and threatened them that they would have to face dire consequences if she complains and that he would ruin their future, get them abducted and frame false charges of drugs against them.’
Mr Richard also wrote that Khobragade had accused his wife of stealing in front of a U.S. immigration officer but would not provide details of what the woman took.
Mrs Richard’s daughter Jennifer also wrote a letter to U.S. officials saying that her mother was unhappy and wanted to return to India but the diplomat refused to let her go.
Mr Richard’s claim was dismissed in July, according to his lawyer, because the high court claimed ‘no jurisdiction on a crime committed on foreign soil’.