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Diplomat’s Arrest in NY
Visa for maid’s kin: US embassy staff under scanner  
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 24
India has irrefutable evidence to prove that there was a conspiracy behind the arrest of beleaguered diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York on December 12 in an alleged visa fraud case, it is learnt.

The role of US embassy personnel in arranging visa for the family members of Devyani’s maid Sangeeta Richard was being probed, sources said. Sangeeta’s kin took an Air India flight from India to the US just two days before the diplomat’s arrest in New York.

The tickets for Sangeeta’s husband Philips and their two children Jannifar and Jatin were issued by the travel agency of the US embassy in New Delhi. The three tickets were exempt from a service tax of 4.5 per cent.

The family was issued a T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) provided to victims of human trafficking. The Tribune is in possession of a copy of tickets bearing nos. 0984652891919, 0984652891920 and 0984652891921.

Sources claimed that the US embassy had committed an immigration fraud because it granted visas to the maid’s family even though Sangeeta was untraceable. They wondered on what grounds the family was given visa and on whose application. The role of Sangeeta’s father-in-law, who is said to be working for the US embassy, in the entire controversy is also suspect.

India had lodged a complaint with the New York Police way back in June that Sangeeta was absconding but the police sat on the complaint and did nothing. “The US did not respond to repeated requests to help find Sangeeta when Devyani was arrested. India also asked the American embassy to help find Richard way back on July 5,” sources said. There is also a suspicion that Sangeeta might have been passing on vital information to the US.

Sources also explained that in October 2000, the US Congress had enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) under which domestic assistants who abscond can obtain a trafficking visa by alleging that they were subjected to involuntary servitude nd not paid wages as per US laws. They could get a three-year T visa which gets converted to full resident status. Naturally such people could allege that they would face extreme hardship if they were deported back, as Sangeeta has done. In return, they have to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies against the alleged traffickers-their employers.

There is hope in the South Block that the stand-off between India and the US could end sooner rather than later, now that S Jaishankar, a seasoned diplomat, has reached Washington to take charge as the new Indian Ambassador to the US. 

India withdraws ID cards of US officials

* All ID cards provided to US Consular officials stand withdrawn, the government said on Tuesday as India hardened its position in the ongoing stand-off with Washington over the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

* India has decided to take firm reciprocal steps following the end of the deadline for surrender of ID cards provided to US Consular Staff in India, sources said.

* New cards, which were exact replicas of the cards provided to Indian Consulate officials in the US, were being given in lieu of the withdrawn cards.





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