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Indictment for Indian Diplomat Accused of Worker Exploitation

Thursday, January 09, 2014

WNYC

A federal grand jury has indicted an Indian diplomat charged with visa fraud and lying on an application about how much she paid a domestic worker. The case against 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade is focusing attention on the broader issue -- how foreign officials treat workers in their employ. The diplomat's arrest last month prompted outrage and fiery protests in India.

Court papers state Khobragade allegedly paid the domestic worker less than $6,000 per year, often requiring her to work more than 100 hours a week without a single, full day off.

Martina Vandenburg, President of the Human Trafficking and Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said there's a simple reason dozens of civil trafficking cases over the last decade have involved foreign officials.

"Diplomats believe that they have immunity and they can do whatever they want,” Vandenburg said. She hopes the high profile case will deter others from mistreating treating workers.

Khobragade's attorney Daniel Arshack maintained her innocence, calling the charges “baseless." Despite the indictment, Khobragade is not expected to face punishment because she has diplomatic immunity and has left the country. 

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