Imagine the irony of a diplomat known for championing women’s rights taking advantage of her own nanny.
A prominent Indian diplomat has been criminally charged in New York for paying her nanny a paltry $3.31 an hour and then lying about it on the woman’s visa application.
Late last week, Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy counsel for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs, was arrested and handcuffed as she dropped her daughter off at a posh private Manhattan school.
Although Khobragade was the acting head of the Indian consulate at the time of her arrest, the U.S. government, in a rare move, is denying her diplomatic immunity, saying that visa fraud isn’t covered under the Vienna convention.
And so far the New York press is having a field day with the diplomat’s duplicity. In the past year, Khobragade has repeatedly spoken to the media in connection to her duties as an advocate for “underprivileged” women’s rights.
But her advocacy apparently stopped short when it came to the woman taking care of Khobragade’s own daughter.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Khobragade was helping her nanny fill out fake visa forms that claimed the diplomat was paying her $4,500 (U.S.) a month, which works out to $3,927 a month more than the woman’s actual $3.31-an-hour salary, which they documented in a secret contract.
If and when the case ever proceeds to trial, Khobragade’s nanny and husband are both expected to be called as witnesses.
And not surprisingly, the arrest has caused a ruckus in diplomatic circles. India’s foreign secretary has already requested that the U.S. ambassador to India speak out against Khobragade’s arrest.
Khobragade’s own attorney, Daniel Arshack, is attempting to attach political motives to the criminal charges against his client.
“I don’t know,” said Arshak in an interview with CBS News. “I think there must be some political motivation, but I don’t know.”
For her part, Khobragade was freed after posting a $250,000 bail, but was forced to surrender her travel documents until the case is settled. If she’s tried and convicted of the fraud and making false statements charges, she faces up to 15 years imprisonment.
And there’s not much career future for a foreign-born diplomat stuck in an American prison.
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