Strip-searched India diplomat leaves U.S.

NEW YORK -- An Indian diplomat accused of lying about how much she paid her housekeeper left the United States on Thursday night after being by indicted on federal charges in a case that has triggered an outcry in India.

Devyani Khobragade, 39, India's deputy consul general in New York, flew out of the United States late Thursday on her way home to India, her lawyer confirmed to CBS News.  

Lawyer Daniel Arschack said Khobragade "is pleased to be returning to her country,."

"She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known," Arshack said in a statement.

The United States asked Khobragade to leave the country earlier Thursday, after she was indicted on federal charges in New York.

A U.S. government official said the United States accepted India's request to accredit her to the United Nations, which confers broader immunity than what she enjoyed as a consular official.

The United States asked the government of India to waive the immunity, but the Indians refused, the official said. That prompted the U.S. to order her out of the country. The Indian Foreign Ministry responded that Khobragade was being transferred to New Delhi.

Her lawyer insisted that Khobragade had done nothing wrong.

"We hope that those who are interested in this case and in any criminal case will always look with deep skepticism at  indictments which  are sometimes poorly investigated, one-sided accounts that masquerade as facts," Arshack said in his statement.

"The indictment in this case is meaningless based as it is on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts and documents," he said.

A federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted Khobragade on charges of visa fraud and making false statements.  The indictment said Khobragade had made multiple false representations to U.S. authorities, or caused them to be made, to obtain a visa for a personal domestic worker. 

Investigators said Khobragade claimed to pay her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually gave her far less than the U.S. minimum wage.

The diplomat's arrest last month sparked outrage in India after revelations that she was strip-searched and thrown in a cell with other criminal defendants before being released on $250,000 bail.

Khobragade has maintained her innocence. In India, the housekeeper has been vilified and accused of blackmailing her employer.

The housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard, said in her first public statements Thursday that she had decided to come to the U.S. to work for a few years to support her family, then return to India.

"I never thought that things would get so bad here, that I would work so much that I did not have time to sleep or eat or have time to myself," she said in a statement released by the anti-trafficking group Safe Horizon.

She tried to return to India because of how she'd been treated, she said, but her request was denied.

"I would like to tell other domestic workers who are suffering as I did - you have rights and do not let anyone exploit you," Richard said.




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