New York: An arrest warrant was today issued against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges after her fresh indictment by US prosecutors who accused her of "illegally" underpaying and "exploiting" her domestic maid.
39-year-old Khobragade, who was arrested in New York on December 12 and has since been transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, faces arrest if she visits the US where her husband and two children are staying.
Devyani Khobragade. File pic
Following the fresh 21-page indictment, US Attorney in Manhattan India-born Preet Bharara said in a letter to US District Judge William Pauley that an "arrest warrant was also issued today" against the diplomat and that the government "will alert the court immediately upon the defendant s arrest so that an appearance" before the judge may be scheduled.
The new charges, which came two day after a US court dismissed an earlier indictment on Wednesday, accused her of visa fraud and making false statements about the visa application of her maid Sangeeta Richard.
The indictment states that the diplomat "knowingly made" multiple false representations and presented false information to US authorities in order to obtain a visa for a personal domestic worker. The fresh indictment filed in a court in Manhattan also charges that Khobragade submitted to the US State Department an employment contract of her domestic worker which she knew contained "materially false and fraudulent statements."
A grand jury had earlier returned a true bill on the two-count criminal indictment of Khobragade. The indictment said, "Khobragade did not want to pay the victim the required wages under US law or provide the victim with other protections against exploitative work conditions mandated by US law.
"Knowing that if the US authorities were told the truth about the actual terms of her employment agreement with the victim, Khobragade would not have been able to obtain a visa for the victim, Khobragade decided to make false statements to the US authorities," it said.
Khobragade was arrested on visa fraud charges and for making false statements regarding the visa application of her maid. She was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps. The diplomat has refuted the charges against her.