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Diplomat row: Preet Bharara submits contracts to court signed between Devyani,maid

PTI | Last Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 01:54

New York: Manhattan`s top prosecutor Preet Bharara has submitted to a federal court here two employment contracts signed between Devyani Khobragade and her domestic help Sangeeta Richard, showing different salaries to be paid to Richard, as a proof that the Indian diplomat had made false statements to US authorities to obtain a visa for her.

As a grand jury indicted 39-year-old Khobragade on charges of visa fraud and making false statements, Bharara submitted seven documents with the federal court in Manhattan.

One of these exhibits is the employment contract signed between Khobragade and her domestic worker Sangeeta Richard on November 11, 2012 that was submitted with the US Embassy when Richard went for her visa interview.
The contract states that under the employment conditions that will apply to Khobragade and Richard "during the period of employment in the US," Richard will be paid USD 9.75 per hour as per "wages at the prevailing or minimum wage rate as required by law, whichever is greater". It said she would work 40 hours per week with an off on Sunday.

It also adds that wages to Richard should be paid "biweekly by electronic fund transfer" to her bank account.

Neither Khobragade nor Richard`s "family members will have access to the employee`s bank account," it added.

Another document submitted by Bharara is an "India non-judicial e-stamp," which is a separate employment contract dated November 21, 2012 between Khobragade and Richard. In this it is stated that Richard will be paid "an expected salary of Rs 25,000 per month with an additional Rs 5,000 for overtime ie work on Sunday, after hours and for parties." It goes on to say that the "maximum" salary per month including overtime allowance "will not exceed" Rs 30,000 per month.

It is these two employment contracts that are at the crux of the criminal charges that Bharara has brought against Khobragade. The indictment said that Khobragade`s "decision to manufacture a fraudulent employment agreement" showing the USD 9.75 hourly wage and which appear to be complying with the requirements of US law "demonstrated clearly" Khobragade`s knowledge of the applicable legal requirements.

However, she never intended to pay Richard the USD 9.75 hourly wage and so made a separate contract with her which said that Richard will be paid Rs 30,000 a month.

"Knowing that if the US authorities were told the truth about the actual terms of her employment agreement with the victim (Richard), Khobragade would not have been able to obtain a visa for the victim, Khobragade decided to make false statements to the US authorities."

The indictment added that in the second contract that
Khobragade signed with Richard, she "specifically deleted" a provision acknowledging that Khobragade "agrees to abide by federal, state and local laws in the US."
"This second agreement, with the actual terms of employment, was never submitted to US authorities," the indictment said adding that Khobargade told Richard to "lie and not say anything" about the Rs 30,000 salary per month.

The indictment said Richard was made to work about "94-109 hours per week."

"The victim was routinely called upon at all hours to perform her duties," working for the initial first two months for seven days a week.

"Khobragade told the victim that she would not have any days off because the victim was paid Rs 30,000 per month, which covered overtime hours."

The indictment said that Richard had conveyed to Khobragade in June 2013 that "she could no longer work for Khobragade because she was unhappy with her low salary, long hours and harsh work conditions and wanted to go home."

The other document submitted by Bharara is the first information report that was filed by Khobragade dated July 3, 2013 against Richard "for fraud, wilful deceit, harassment and extortion."

The FIR said that Richard had "approached" Khobragade around August 2012 stating that she did not have a job and "need money for children`s education".

In the FIR, Khobragade "acknowledged" that she had agreed to pay the victim "only Rs 30,000 per month", contrary to her representations to US authorities.

The other exhibits submitted by Bharara include detailed information about US requirements and provisions relating to "Protections for domestic workers and other non-immigrants", "Protections, remedies, and limitations on issuance for `A-`3 and `G-5` visas", US State Department requirements for visas for Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials and US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual on Visas.

It also includes a December 2009 "diplomatic note" which details the standards applicable to the employment of personal workers, attendants and domestic workers of mission personnel in the US, their wages and hours of work.

Khobragade, whose arrest on December 12 triggered a row between the two sides, returned to India tonight.

First Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 00:56

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