Preet Bharara, the celebrity US prosecutor, brought two main charges against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade: visa fraud and failure to pay Federal minimum wage while overworking her employee. She faces maximum prison sentences as reported by the press:
The diplomat, freed on payment of a $250,000 bond, could face a maximum sentence of 10 years if convicted of visa fraud, and five years for making a false declaration.
Thus, as far as we can tell, Mr. Bharara imagines no prison sentences against India’s Lady Diplomat for her underpaying Ms. Richard, since apparently, the first time violation of the Federal Minimum wage law does not include a prison sentence and therefore counts only as a misdemeanor. Thus, the US government has determined that it is a grave crime to lie on a visa application form (DS-160)–so grave indeed that it allowed the US Marshals to violate its own standards in the treatment of a foreign diplomat (p. 16):
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT and judicial authorities of the United States always treat foreign diplomatic and consular personnel with respect and with due regard for the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled under international law. Any failure to do so has the potential of casting doubt on the commitment of the United States to carry out its international obligations or of negatively influencing larger foreign policy interests. As stated above, however, appropriate caution should not become a total “hands off ’ attitude in connection with criminal law enforcement actions involving diplomats.
The cavity/strip search of Devyani Khobragade violates the State Department’s guidelines, because it entails much more disrespect to India than was ever necessary and has thereby jeopardized larger foreign policy interests.
However, Ms. Khobragade’s attorney has said that when she filled out DS-160, she put down her own monthly salary not her maid’s. She apparently wrote down $4500 per month. Did she really swear to the US government at risk of committing fraud and a ten-year prison sentence that she would pay Sangeeta Richard US $54,000, more than three times the minimum wage? To be her nanny? Her lawyer says no, she was indicating her own salary. This has an air of sanity to it.
I would think also that math is not everyone’s strong point and had Ms. Khobragade herself calculated the rupees to the greenback, she might have used the wrong exchange rate or made a error of math. A few years ago, as I was embarking an international flight in Toronto, Canadian homeland security accosted me and asked me how much currency I was carrying out of the country. I had something like 150,000 XAF (central African francs), and the officer was very angry with me until she learned that it was only the equivalent of about $400 Canadian. Not everyone is good at exchange rates and currencies. Form Crime may just be another name for bad math or misreading the instructions for the form. Should anyone in a free country risk ten years in jail for filling out a form incorrectly? In the USA, the land of freedom, it is a real possibility.
So human error, without intent to disobey the law or a law, happens everyday. But when it happens on a form for the US government, all of sudden it is a felony and could land you in jail. And even if you enjoy diplomatic immunity, the US will argue that it is a grave crime, at the level of murder or human trafficking.
Devyani row: US welcomes additional police outside embassy in Delhi
“Beyond that (deployment of additional personnel), I’m not going to get into a lot of specifics about our security posture, but certainly we appreciate the police’s efforts and we’ll move forward from here,” Harf said.
The US government has been voicing concerns over the security of their diplomatic personnel after India enforced strict reciprocity by removing the barricades as the US authorities opened the parking in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington to general public and refused to reinstate it despite repeated requests.”
It seems “immature” behaviour hasn’t been limited to the Indian government.
1)I have seen at this blog some of the best analyses on the Indian diplomat issue. After reading the above piece I think calling P.Bharrara “Uncle Tom” makes lot of sense. Punishment way out of proportion to the “crime”.
2) There is another big issue that is not being addressed. Liberal fringe extremists have taken over Washington DC. When your mind is clouded with toxic extremism, you are not bound to examine the case unbiased. The case for “human trafficking” is way, way outlandish.
3) Racial prejudice. “Victim” was Indian, Prxxx Bharara is “Indian-American” are useless defences.
This could happen only to an Indian diplomat. It might have happened to an African diplomat, that’s about it.
4) “Evacuating” foreign citizens from their native country. Supposedly liberal administration beats even neocon admin on this one.
5) the overall good outcome is INDIANS have realised how little the Americans think of them. No harm in having a realistic assessment. Don’t jeopardize friendship with Iran or Russia for the sake of US, for example.
@bubblebustin, I can’t think of anything more immature than the provincial views that the US officials have displayed. As Vijay says, the mere suggestion that this is remotely like human trafficking is ridiculous. And yet still, there is rumor that they are planning to crack down on other diplomats for their payment of private staff. The US is doing all it can to destroy its relations with other countries.
That can only make the world resent FATCA all the more.
@vijay, the argument that Bharara, being himself a native of India, proves that the action against the Indian diplomat was not racist, is admittedly very weak. This requires the typically American naivete that while the US is diverse, other countries are monolithic. Yet India has many divisions. Where on these historical divisions does Bharara lie? Is he a Dalit like Ms. Khobragade? Or does he come from a group that historically looked down upon Dalits?
The other term used of Mr. Bharara is that of MATA — More American than the Americans. This may be true–meaning that he would prosecute an Indian national with all the more vigor because he has to prove himself impartial. It would have been better if he had recused himself from this case on the basis of a perceived conflict of interest or lack of partiality. The Indian government should call on him to recuse himself.
vijay, “how little Americans think of them”. There are two kinds of people as far as Americans are concerned. Americans. And everyone else. Best to know who you are and make your plans with that in mind. Some countries have yet to learn this but most are swiftly coming to this assessment.
Petros, form crimes are part of the burgeoning bureaucracy that goes along with govt, don’t you think. How much punishment is meted out depends on the govt, the form in question and where the person filling it out resides on the food chain.
@YogaGirl, Yes I think so. But it has little to do with the form itself. Almost all the violations of Form Crime, no matter the form, entail a $10,000 fine and max. five years in prison.
Joe Biden is offering doughnuts to help smoothe over the issues.
Many would agree with you, Petros. Native Canadian posted this article yesterday:
“The United States legal system combines great expertise with ‘absurd, imperialistic brutality’, warns former UBS bank chairman Peter Kurer in an interview in the Die Zeit newspaper.”
Thanks Bubble, I was not sure where to post it. I wish all governments would read it before doing business with the devil(US government)…..
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