India accuses US of fraud, says diplomat trapped in conspiracy
Even as the outrage over the arrest of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade continued with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making his first comments describing as "deplorable" the way the diplomat was treated, she has been transferred to the Indian Mission to the UN to give her fuller diplomatic immunity.
In his first statement in Parliament on the issue, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that she was the victim of a "conspiracy" and that some people had "trapped" Khobragade, who was put through both strip and cavity searches, procedures normally used for criminals.
Narrating the sequence of events that began in June-July this year, Khurshid said the maid servant disappeared and a case was lodged with New York Police Department but no action was taken.
"The Deputy Consul General (later) received a phone call from a lawyer who refused to identify himself and offered to settle the matter that would result in grant of permanent citizenship to her and a huge compensation. It became clear that this was a conspiracy and some people trapped her," he said, adding the treatment meted out to Khobragade had "not happened out of blue" and there is a "history" behind it.
Significantly, the family of the maid, Sangeeta Richards, was granted visa by the US embassy despite India being in touch with Americans since her disappearance and cancellation of her official passport in June. The family - Sangeeta's husband Philip and two children- left for New York on December 10, just two days before Khobragade was arrested.
Given the "odd" timing of the departure of the family of the maid and arrest of Indian diplomat, there is a feeling that there were "three rings of charade" as US facilitated a visa fraud even after being told by India that there was a risk of illegal immigration by Sangeeta and her family.
A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a USD 250,000 bond only after pleading not guilty in court.
The ill-treatment of the its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families including withdrawing airport passes and stopping import clearances.