10 Jan 2014

India diplomat leaves US

6:36 pm on 10 January 2014

An Indian diplomat whose arrest in the United States has sparked a diplomatic row has left for India.

Devyani Khobragade, 39, a deputy consul general, was ordered to leave the US on Thursday after she was indicted on criminal charges and India refused to waive her immunity.

She was arrested in New York in December on charges of visa fraud and of underpaying her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard, the BBC reports.

Ms Khobragade was handcuffed and strip-searched, and India demanded an apology for her "humiliation".

A senior US official said Ms Khobragade departed from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport on Thursday night, heading for India.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin also said Ms Khobragade had left the US.

"At the time of her departure to India, Counsellor Khobragade reiterated her innocence of charges filed against her. She affirmed her gratitude to the government of India, in particular to the external affairs minister, and the people of India, as also the media, for their strong and sustained support during this period."

Devyani Khobragade is charged with knowingly making false representations to US authorities in order to obtain a visa for her housekeeper. The false information concerned Ms Richard's terms of employment, which it is alleged did not comply with US labour laws covering minimum wages and limiting working hours.

Ms Richard eventually fled from her employer in the middle of 2013 and made a complaint. Ms Khobragade denies the charges against her, and in turn accused Ms Richard of theft and attempted blackmail.

US prosecutors said the charges against her would remain pending.

A planned trip to India by a US energy secretary has been postponed.