Devyani Khobragade’s Strip-Search Could Have and Should Have Been Avoided: Preet Bharara in Her New BookTop Stories

March 20, 2019 12:18
Devyani Khobragade’s Strip-Search Could Have and Should Have Been Avoided: Preet Bharara in Her New Book

The Indian American former attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, in her new book has acknowledged that the strip-search which Indian diplomat was subject to following her arrest in 2013 for alleged visa fraud "could have and should have been avoided".

In a new book titled 'Doing Justice - A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law,' Bharara writes about Khobragade's arrest and charges filed against her.

The occurrence had triggered a major diplomatic row between India and the United States and plummeted bilateral relations to a new low.

Bharara writes in his book that in 2013, the State Department "arrested a mid-level female Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, for visa fraud in connection with lies about what she would pay her domestic worker."

He said the Southern District of New York had agreed to prosecute the case, at the State Department's 'explicit request".

"It was not the crime of the century but a serious offense nonetheless and a burgeoning problem among the diplomatic corps in the United States. That's why the State Department opened the case; that's why the State Department investigated it; that's why the career agents in the State Department asked career prosecutors in my office to approve criminal charges," he writes.

There was outrage in India over the arrest of Khobragade, who was then the country's Deputy Consul General in New York, and reports that she had been strip-searched furthered caused anger in India.

"Khobragade was afforded a number of courtesies during the course of her arrest, because of her diplomatic status, but she was strip-searched per regular procedure by the United States Marshals Service in the SDNY.

That could have and should have been avoided, given that no one would have sought pretrial detention," Bharara writes.

The admission that Khobragade's strip-search could and should have been avoided is the first by a former top prosecutor who had handled the case.

Bharara said in the book that Khobragade's arrest had caused an international incident.

In the days following Khobragade's arrest and indictment, in a retaliatory action, India removed security barriers from outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Devyani Khobragade Incident

Devyani Khobragade, on December 11, 2013, then the Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India in New York City, the U.S. authorities charged her with committing visa fraud and providing false statements with an intent to gain entry to the United States for Sangeeta Richard, a woman of Indian nationality, for employment as a domestic worker for Khobragade in New York

In addition, she was charged with failing to pay the domestic worker a minimum wage.

Her arrest and treatment have received much media attention especially in India and triggered a major diplomatic standoff between India and the United States.

By Sowmya Sangam

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New York  Indian diplomat  Preet Bharara