State Department ignored repeated requests by Khobragade on ‘missing’ maid.
WASHINGTON, DC: The timeline of events that led to arrest of India’s Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in New York City last week is becoming clearer.
According to sources who spoke with The American Bazaar, the whole fiasco began as early as June, when Khobragade’s maid, Sangeetha Richard, asked for permission to be employed elsewhere, essentially asking that she be released from working for Khobragade. She had been working as Khobragade’s maid/servant since November of 2012, when she originally came to the US.
This request was refused, as the maid was in the US on an official passport — different from a general passport and diplomatic passport — that allowed her only to work for the person she initially came to the US for, which was Khobragade.
Shortly thereafter, on June 23, Richard was reported as missing by the Consulate General of India (CGI). On June 24, the Indian Embassy contacted the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) in New York City, notifying them that an Indian citizen with an official passport was roaming around the city and that no one knew where she was.
Khobragade also attempted to file a missing persons report with the New York Police Department (NYPD) when Richard initially went missing on June 23, but was rebuffed because of the fact that she is not a family member of Richard.
On June 25, a letter was sent to the NYPD explaining that the maid was missing and that it was imperative she be found. On a date shortly afterward — a specific date was not given — the NYPD did speak with Khobragade regarding the details of the case, but it apparently gained no traction.
The plot thickened on July 1, when a phone call was made to Khobragade by a woman claiming to be the lawyer of Sangeetha Richard. The woman said that her client was looking for compensation, a change in her visa status, and a termination of her contract to work solely for Khobragade. If these demands were not met, legal action would be taken.
The following day, Khobragade filed a complaint with police in New Delhi against Richard. The CGI also contacted the NYPD for assistance with tracing the call, but it was unsuccessful.
On July 5, Khobragade filed a complaint against Richard, claiming extortion. A formal letter was sent to the NYPD expressing the grievances, but the NYPD allegedly never responded, nor took any action.
The same day in New Delhi, an FIR was filed against Richards’ family for willful deceit and attempting to illegally immigrate to the US via wrongful means. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) contacted the US Embassy in New Delhi to express their concerns about the lack of movement from the NYPD, and requested assistance in apprehending Richard. Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC contacted the Department of State for assistance, as well.
Both inquiries for help, however, went unanswered.
On July 8, the Indian Embassy officially revoked Richards’ passport, terminated her personal IDs, and notified the US government about the situation. It is unclear which department of the US government was notified at this point, but likely the Department of State.
Also on July 8, Khobragade had a meeting with Richard and her attorney at the law offices of Access Immigration, a law firm in New York City that is private and has no government affiliation. Once again, Richards’ terms were re-iterated: $10,000 restitution, change in visa status, and termination of contract.
Khobragade countered by saying that when Richard disappeared suddenly weeks earlier, she had taken a phone, SIM cards, documents (her contract, etc.), and some money, therefore she was a thief.
The CGI once again contacted the OFM in New York for assistance in catching Richard on July 30, but this request also apparently fell on deaf ears.
The case stayed relatively quiet until September 4, when the Indian Embassy received a letter from the Department of State regarding the Khobragade/Richard problem. Sources say that the embassy was simply made aware that a former maid was making her grievances known and was accusing Khobragade of various things, and that the Embassy may want to investigate it.
The letter did not, allegedly, say anything whatsoever about the Embassy’s previous attempts to solve the matter, nor did it say anything about Khobragade’s, CGI’s, or the Indian government’s efforts in this regard.
On September 10, the MEA contacted the US Embassy in New Delhi, protesting the content and tone of this letter. This was supposedly done at the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) level.
Ten days later, on September 20, the Delhi High Court issued an injunction against Richard and her husband, restricting them from initiating any legal actions or proceedings against Khobragade in any courts, tribunals, or forums outside India, in regards her employment under Khobragade.
Sometime in early October, the Indian Embassy once again reached out to the State Department, listing the efforts it made to nab Richard thus far and asking for the State Department’s help. This communique did not yield any results.
On November 19, the Metropolitan Magistrate of the South District of New Delhi issued a bailable arrest warrant against Richard.
On December 6, the Indian Embassy and the MEA wrote letters to the Department of State and the US Embassy in New Delhi, respectively, requesting an arrest warrant on Richard, so that she could be brought to justice and go through due process in Indian courts.
As of today, that request still has not been answered.
Finally, last Thursday, December 12, Khobragade was arrested in New York City for visa fraud and paying her worker below the minimum wage.
Several facts of the case are still shrouded in mystery at this point. Perhaps most importantly is the question of why the US government allegedly paid no heed to repeated attempts on India’s part to apprehend this house worker. More will surely be unraveled in the coming days.
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