A prominent Indian diplomat and women's rights advocate working in New York is being accused of committing visa fraud and grossly underpaying her children's nanny -- at just $3.31 per hour.
Devyani Khobragade, a 39-year-old mother of two, was arrested outside her daughter's school in New York on Thursday. She was later released on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty, CBS New York reports.
According to an employment contract obtained by NDTV, the nanny -- an Indian national named Sangeeta Richard -- was supposed to be paid $4,500 per month (as stated in her U.S. visa), but Khobragade later changed the salary to $537 a month. Prosecutors say this means Khobragade provided false documents to the U.S. government and committed visa fraud.
Khobragade's lawyers are arguing that since she earns only $4,000 monthly, she paid the nanny what she could afford, NDTV reports.
As India's deputy counsel general for Political, Economic, Commercial, and Women’s Affairs in New York, Khobragade has certain governmental privileges. However, the State Department has determined that she is not eligible for diplomatic immunity in this case because the charges are not related to her post, according to the Times Of India.
Her lawyers are pushing back on that decision, and saying Khobragade's public arrest was "shocking and unprecedented."
“We believe and we have said in court that Ms. Khobargade is entitled to immunity by virtue of her consular status. We will be making that application to a judge and we fully expect the judge will rule that she is entitled to immunity. We expect her to be fully vindicated whether or not she receives immunity," Khobragade's attorney Dan Arshack reportedly told CNN-IBN.
Khobragade now faces up to 15 years in prison.