US departments, embassy aided Richards's escape

US departments, embassy aided Richards's escape

US departments, embassy aided Richards's escape

An Indian-American attorney in New York, the US Justice and State Departments as well as the American Embassy in New Delhi worked in tandem to “evacuate” the family of Sangeeta Richard from India just two days before her employer and Indian Foreign Service Officer Devyani Khobragade was arrested in Big Apple.

Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, himself, admitted that the American government had “evacuated” Sangeeta’s husband Philip Richard and the couple’s two children from India on December 10 last. “This office and the US Department of Justice are compelled to make sure that victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending,” he said in a statement, defending American Government’s role in evacuation of the family, although Philip was named accused along with his wife, Sangeeta, in an FIR lodged by Khobragade in Delhi on July 5 last.

“It needs to be asked what right a foreign government has to evacuate Indian citizens from India while cases are pending against them in the Indian legal system,” official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said as New Delhi strongly reacted to Preet Bharara’s statement.

Sangeeta went to New York with Khobragade in November 2012. She travelled on an official passport issued by the Indian government and an A-3 visa issued by the American Embassy in New Delhi. She, however, disappeared from Khobragade’s home in New York on June 23, after her request for permission to take a local job in New York was turned down by the IFS officer. Her disappearance was reported to the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions in New York next day.

The New York Police Department and US Department of State took little action on the complaints and requests from Khobragade and the Indian government to help find Sangeeta. It has, however, now come to light that Sangeeta was in fact over the past six months hatching a plot to get rest of her Delhi-based family to New York and prepare ground for securing Green Cards (permanent residency in US) for herself, her husband and her children. Sangeeta was helped by “Access Immigration”, a law firm specializing in immigration related maters, which drew up an elaborate plan and surprisingly managed to get support from within the US government – particularly Department of State and Department of Justice.

Khobragade met Sangeeta at the office of the Access Immigration on July 8 when the domestic help demanded $10000, grant of an ordinary passport and immigration relief so that she could stay back in the US. Her demand was rejected and she was told that she must return to India. Her passport was revoked the same day and thus her stay in US immediately became illegal.

The Access Immigration later managed to get the US attorney for the southern district of New York and launch an investigation by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the Department of State into alleged exploitation of Sangeeta by Khobragade. The law firm also helped her apply for a T-visa – a particular category of US visa exclusively reserved for the victims of human trafficking and their families.

Khobragade on July 2 filed a complaint with the Delhi Police accusing Sangeeta and Philip of making false promise and cheating under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. This was followed up by an FIR on July 5 against the family for willful deceit and attempt to cheat to illegally immigrate to the US by wrongful means. The Delhi High Court on September 20 issued an ad interim injunction restraining Sangeeta and Philip from initiating any legal action or proceedings against Khobragade in any court outside India.