SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 20, 2013

Lawyer: Indian housekeeper did not extort money

(Continued)

Sussman and others in the U.S. say the outrage is misdirected.

“It’s quite overwhelming for her,” Sussman said of her client. “I think she’s been frustrated with the response that somehow has been on the victimization of the defendant.”

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said Thursday the housekeeper had been blackmailing the diplomat. He said Richard had threatened over the summer to go to the police unless Khobragade arranged a new passport for her, along with a work visa and a large sum of money.

Khurshid did not say how much money Richard sought. But two top Indian officials said the housekeeper asked for $10,000 in the presence of an immigration lawyer and two other witnesses. Both officials have close knowledge of the case, but spoke on condition that their names not be published because of the sensitivity of the case.

Sussman said the claims were inaccurate. “There was no extortion or anything about those lines,” she said. “She essentially worked very long hours, was isolated within the home, and attempted to ask for more time off, ask for more reasonable hours, but those attempts to resolve the issues were unsuccessful.”

The New York Police Department does not have a record of Khobragade complaining of being blackmailed, though it’s possible she could have reported it to a different law enforcement agency. Khobragade reported the housekeeper missing in June. The NYPD determined the woman had simply left and the case was closed.

Eventually, U.S. authorities brought Richard’s family to the U.S. after attempts were made to silence her and compel her to return to India, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a rare statement on the case. Sussman said the family is now “safe and secure.”

Khobragade was arrested outside of her daughter’s school and strip-searched, as is common practice according to the U.S. Marshals. But the idea of an educated, middle-class woman facing a strip-search is almost unheard of in India, except in the most extraordinary crimes. She also said she was subjected to a cavity search, which the Marshals deny.

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