U.S. attorney Bharara says Indian diplomat accorded courtesies

Dec. 19, 2013 at 12:56 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York did not happen in front of her children as reported, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

In a lengthy statement to correct what he said has been "much misinformation and factual inaccuracy" in the reporting of the charges against Khobragade, which has set off a huge India-U.S. diplomatic furor, the well-known Manhattan U.S. attorney said Khobragade was accorded courtesies "well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded."

Bharara said Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York arrested last week, was taken into custody by agents of the U.S. State Department.

"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," Bharara's statement said.

He said the officers did not even seize her phone, which would have been normal, and they allowed her to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and including arranging for child care. They even brought her coffee in her car and offered to bring food, he said.

Bharara's statement, throwing new light on the entire issue, comes even as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a telephone talks with Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, sought to contain the crisis by expressing regret and concern.

The U.S. attorney said the inaccuracies in the reporting "are misleading people and creating an inflammatory atmosphere on an unfounded basis."

Khobragade has been accused of submitting false documents for a work visa for her female housekeeper and paying the worker far below the local minimum wage. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains free on a $250,000 bail.

Bharara said she was charged based on conduct that "shows she clearly tried to evade U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers." He said not only did she try to evade the law, "but as further alleged, she caused the victim and her spouse to attest to false documents and be a part of her scheme to lie to U.S. government officials."

He also said it was true Khobragade "was fully searched by a female deputy marshal in a private setting," adding "this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not," to make sure no prisoner keeps anything that could harm anyone, including the prisoner.

He said the victim's family had been brought to the United States since legal process reportedly had been started in India in an attempting "to silence her" and to compel her to return to India.

Bharara's statement said his office's sole motivation is to uphold the rule of law and hold accountable "anyone who breaks the law -- no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are."

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