U.S. Prosecutor's Crusade Against Indian Diplomat is About His Moral Ego, Not Foreign Nannies

Protets.IndianMANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

India and America are suffering from their worst diplomatic crisis in 20 years. The cause? A showdown over how a Manhattan-based Indian diplomat was treated by U.S. Prosecutor Preet Bharara for allegedly underpaying her Indian housekeeper. She was arrested when dropping her daughters off to school, strip searched, and held in a cell with "common" criminals, in violation of her diplomatic immunity.

Although Indians have a disturbing tendency to equate their national pride with how their government officials are treated abroad, I note in the Washington Examiner, they do have a point

Bharara, himself of Indian origin, asked them: “Why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim?” It’s a good question.

But the answer is not, as Bharara insinuated, the deeply class-conscious Indian society that reflexively treats the rich and powerful as more equal than the poor and powerless. It is that Indians see Bharara’s pompous insistence on enforcing a preposterous rule of law without regard to the human context as moral fanaticism.

Go here to read the whole thing.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    Can we just agree that everyone in this situation is ludicrously privileged under the law and equally deserving of our disdain?

  • rts||

  • Ken Shultz||

    "It is that Indians see Bharara’s pompous insistence on enforcing a preposterous rule of law without regard to the human context as moral fanaticism."

    I suspect the people of India (and China) probably have a lingering memory of being treated as second class citizens, historically, and I suspect it makes them hypersensitive to things that might not even register in other countries.

    P.S. The prevailing wage of a housekeeper in New York City is $4,500 a month?!

  • UnCivilServant||

    $3.5k of which went out in rent and cost of commuting.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'd bet dollars to chapati that when she signed the agreement to pay the prevailing wage, she had no idea what the prevailing wage was.

    It should also be outrageous to Americans, I think, that they would jail somebody for not paying the prevailing wage. She was treated just like any ordinary American? how many Americans know they can be treated this way for running afoul of rules on hiring a maid?

    Most people probably think you can be fined or, more appropriately, sued, but all those working moms out there better call a lawyer.

  • GILMORE||

    Its not "prevailing wage" so much as the requirement for people claiming the domestic servant they're dragging along from whatever asscrack-of-nowhere country they come from that this particular person is essential to their presence in the country in a way that a locally-sourced domestic employee would not.

    I.e. We got enough damn low-paid immigrant workers as it is, and you @#(&*$ snotty-ass Indians are too good to hire a fucking Puerto Rican? Fine = Pay out the Nose.

    it may not make sense, but very little in NYC does.

    And these laws do not apply to "every American". They apply to people with diplomatic visas importing personal staff into the country.

    It may sound weird, but remember that there are 1000s of foreign diplomatic staff living and working in NYC. They are most notable for *ignoring traffic and parking rules*.

    There was a story about a decade ago about how china still owed the city something like $20million in parking tickets. or maybe that was the UN in total.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I'm just amazed that the Obama administration has not stepped in with a cultural relativism argument.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    And if we did not have minimum wage laws, this would not even be an incident.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Sadly, Bharara is the leading mechanism for actually getting rid of NYS Legislators. (He's prosecuted the most of them)

  • ||

    Preet Bharara is a known grandstanding scumbag prosecutor who has many times done stunts to increase his own profile, usually in the most heinous and liberty-destroying way possible. I don't know anything about the woman he had arrested, but I do know that he is an abject scumbag. I hope he gets fucked hard for this, just to see him gone.

  • Drake||

    So an Eliot Spitzer protege?

  • ||

    More of a Rudy Giuliani than a Spitzer, but they're all just a subspecies of scumbag.

  • Pro Libertate||

    So not a fucking steamroller?

  • ||

    Just with your mom.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, my mom would likely drive over Spitzer and his ilk with a steamroller, true. She's getting crankily political in her later years.

  • ||

    If that's what she tells you...

  • Ken Shultz||

    Does anybody find this interesting?

  • ||

    ...a known grandstanding scumbag prosecutor who has many times done stunts to increase his own profile, usually in the most heinous and liberty-destroying way possible.

    Can anyone name a single New York City prosecutor whom this doesn't describe?

  • ||

    Uh...uh...Fiorello LaGuardia?

  • Swiss Servator, Befehl!||

    Um...sure, that one guy...uhhh. OK, no, no I cannot.

  • Tim||

    Just because you beat your own housekeeper is no reason to attack that guy.

  • Drake||

    Maybe the Indians are outraged at how the U.S. treats everyone accused of a minor non-violent crime - as if she just robbed a bank with a rifle.

  • UnCivilServant||

    You don't rob banks with rifles - you use tiny pieces of paper that say "I have a weapon - give me cash". You don't even need a weapon. Bank robbery is practically a non-violent crime itself these days.

  • rts||

    I heard about this guy, walked into a federal bank with a portable phone, handed the phone to the teller, the guy on the other end of the phone said: "We got this guy's little girl, and if you don't give him all your money, we're gonna kill 'er."

    Did it work?

    Fuckin' A it worked, that's what I'm talkin' about! Knucklehead walks in a bank with a telephone, not a pistol, not a shotgun, but a fuckin' phone, cleans the place out, and they don't lift a fuckin' finger.

  • ||

    Ooh, that's particularly clever.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I heard about this guy....

    I'd like to see all of your offshore accounts please.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Christopher Boyce took up a bank robbing hobby in the Northwest during his field trip out of prison. "Flight of the Falcon" would make a better movie than "Falcon and the Snowman."

    Of course, he is out now, free as a bird. Seems that stealing from people did not get you locked up as long as stealing from the government in his day.

  • ||

    I have a gub.

  • Tim||

    Indians are learning about our democracy.

  • Raven Nation||

    When I first heard about this incident, it did seem really weird that you would publicly arrest a foreign diplomat over something like this. I assumed the prosecutor had to be engaging in self-promotion otherwise they would have approached the Indians quietly.

    Anyone know how far diplomatic immunity extends? Obviously it doesn't cover capital crimes but I thought it might have covered this.

    Also, I assume State will step in soon, right? Since the Obama Justice Department sued Arizona for effectively trying to enforce US law, I assume the administration will slap NY down for acting against a foreign diplomat.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Bharara is a Federal Prosecutor.

  • Raven Nation||

    Thanks. I should have RTFA.

  • Raven Nation||

    Addendum: I assume the administration could have quietly told Bharara to pull his head in?

  • UnCivilServant||

    The administration probably didn't know about it until they heard about it in the news - they seem to prefer external lines of communication.

  • Raven Nation||

    Thanks.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure diplomatic immunity covers everything, from parking tickets to murder. However, the willingness of a host country to let a murder slide with diplomatic immunity is, I'm sure, variable. I mean, a hooker gets killed? Fuck it. But someone important?

    By the way, your diplomatic immunity? IT'S JUST BEEN REVOKED.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's weird the administration isn't stepping in. I mean, we can always expel a diplomat without upsetting the diplomat's home country too much, but locking one up is a no-no. And India has been a little more U.S.-friendly in the last decade, too.

    I remember this time in Tehran, where some goofy frat boys held some diplomats for a while, and I got the impression that was wrong.

  • Tim||

    Knowing Obama, he's asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to review the case.

  • BakedPenguin||

    +1

  • Raven Nation||

    Yeah, that was the thing that really got me. I can understand detaining them and having a quiet chat, maybe even threatening prosecution but actually throwing a diplomat in prison?

    As to US-India: I haven't been keeping up with how the current admin has been dealing with them; friendly; ignoring them?

  • Pro Libertate||

    One of the few things that Bush did right was improve the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, and some of that still lingers on. We obviously have a decent commercial relationship with India, and they're even hosting the Bollywood "Oscars" in the U.S. (here in Tampa).

  • DRM||

    Of course, it helped Bush's efforts that he was dealing with the BJP, instead of a Congress PM (a party which pointedly was unable to detect any moral difference between Stalin and Eisenhower) in power on Communist Party votes (which is to say, the people who saw a moral difference and preferred Stalin).

  • Raven Nation||

    "It's weird the administration isn't stepping in."

    Obama's been busy:

    http://obamagolfcounter.com/

  • pmains||

    Really? Weird? After the various diplomatic disasters with Britain, Israel, Germany, etc.? I find it surprising that anybody is surprised that we are mistreating diplomats from key allies.

  • DRM||

    She isn't an accredited diplomat, she's an accredited consular official. A status which is governed by very different rules than the ones applying to diplomats.

  • ||

    Law and Order taught me that you could totally honor-kill your daughter in a fancy Manhattan apartment and still get away because of diplomatic immunity, so yeah, I think so too.

  • DRM||

    Diplomatic immunity is quite extensive.

    However, despite the news media repeatedly calling this woman an "Indian diplomat", she was a consular official, and therefore only had consular immunity. And consular immunity doesn't apply to felony charges.

  • Notorious G.K.C. (nee EvH)||

    So...for some immigranrs, your visa can be suspended in they leave their employer?

    Isn't there a constitutional amendment about this?

  • GILMORE||

    "...Indians see Bharara’s pompous insistence on enforcing a preposterous rule of law without regard to the human context as moral fanaticism"

    "preposterous" rule of law? Explain how that works again.

    Also = "human" context?

    (is there some other 'context' people can be involved in, btw? sounds like a made-up term for 'random reasons I think Rule of Law should be more flexible because I say so')

    In India...
    "Under one-third of the country's 1.2 billion people subsist on $1 a day. Average per capita annual income is about $3,600, half of what Richards was being paid....The U.S. consulate pays its Indian employees half of Richards' wages"

    Lets make something entirely clear = the Indian diplomat, as the author points out, agreed to the following = " in the visa application for Sangeeta Richards, the housekeeper, she promised to pay $4,500 per month, as per New York’s “prevailing wage” requirement"

    Now I don't necessarily think NYS laws are a good fucking thing. But they are the laws, and this diplomat claimed - in order to import said domestic servant from her native country where exploitation of domestic servants has little legal protection - that she would adhere to them.

    She didn't.

    How is 'willful and conscious violation of the law of the land you happen to be demanding "Diplomatic" privileges from' in any way exculpated by whatever the fuck prevailing wages in India are?

  • GILMORE||

    *(contd)

    More ridiculousness=

    "One could argue that if Khobragade couldn’t afford to pay Richards what the law demanded, she should have done without her. Fair enough. But would Richards – or the 600 million Indians who would gladly swap places with her – have been better off under that scenario? Far from it."

    Again = where in the LAW does it have any provision stating that one can be excused from following it if it somehow would help someone be "better off" than otherwise? Frankly = who gives a shit?

    " The speculation in India is that this was a naked attempt to manipulate American sensibilities to impress his progressive base and advance his political career."

    Naturally = in India, a country with traditional class structures, notoriously corrupt, and where politicians routinely violate laws to further their careers, this would be the interpretation ANYWHERE someone seems to be exercising the rule of law in a way that disfavors a privileged Indian.

    The idea that the guy was enforcing the law for THE LAW'S SAKE would never occur to anyone.

    The fact is, the 'crime' this woman committed is in fact fairly common in NY. Wealthy Indian immigrants have flaunted US labor law on multiple occasions. This was not an exceptional case. One could take issue with the 'personal treatment' issue, surely, without needing to pretend that this woman didn't commit a crime.

  • GILMORE||

    "He could lobby to scrap the requirement in America’s immigration law that suspends their visas if they change employers, trapping them in genuinely abusive situations.

    He could petition to loosen the visa barriers against foreign domestic workers so that they could shop around for employers"

    All of this is well and good and I agree.

    However, in the lead up to this more-measured discussion about the stupidity of US Labor law, the article is a series of baseless arguments as to why US Labor Law apparently shouldn't apply to this particular individual who flaunted it.

    I don't agree with the laws, but I sure as hell don't think this particular case is one where some kind of 'get out of jail free' card is supposed to be tossed to Friendly Diplomats, just because "india is poor" or some other weepy horseshit like Shikha was slinging.

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