In a new twist to the India-US row involving Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, the domestic help, who was at the centre of the controversy, and her husband have filed for divorce citing differences between them.
Philip Richard, the husband of Khobragade’s help Sangeeta, and their children were flown to New York by the US Embassy in Delhi on trafficking visas days before Khobragade was arrested on charges of visa fraud in December.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Richard said he was disappointed with what he called the way his wife started to lie to him and the couple decided to part ways. They filed for divorce in January, he said, but added that he would continue to defend his wife against Khobragade’s allegations.
“She stopped telling me where she is going and with whom. She started to lie. She said something and did just the opposite. But I still support her in the case against Devyani as I know she is not at fault there,” Richard said.
The Public Affairs Specialist at the US Attorney’s Office, Jennifer Queliz, refused to comment when asked if the separation would impact the case against Khobragade and if the attorney’s office was aware of the development.
Breaking the silence of his family since the controversy broke and damaged ties between New Delhi and Washington, Richard repeated the allegations that Sangeeta was ill-treated by the diplomat and that she was forced to approach the immigration office in the US for help after the IFS officer refused to let her return to India.
He claimed Sangeeta’s grouse was never with her salary but with the way she was being treated. “Sangeeta often called me complaining about it. It was not the money that she was upset about, but the treatment she got there. Devyani made her work overtime, did not give her enough time to sleep and never let her out of the house,” he alleged.
Richard also denied claims that Sangeeta had gone missing from Khobragade’s house in New York and surfaced a month later seeking a compromise.
“She did not go missing. She just went to the immigration office to seek assistance. Sangeeta, who spoke to me a night before she went to the immigration office, told me she wants to come back to her family but Devyani is not letting her go. Devyani told Sangeeta that she is bound by the three-year contract that she signed before coming here and cannot go anywhere till that expires. Sangeeta felt suffocated there and had no choice but to sneak out from the house,” he said. “Money was never the issue. She could have earned that much even working at a diplomat’s house in Delhi.”
Richard said he was breaking his family’s silence as he was hurt by the way the case had been portrayed in the media. He could not come out with his version earlier as he was a witness and was directed to not interact with the media.
“So much had been written showing Sangeeta in a bad light, about her fabricating the entire story just to extort money out of the Khobragades, but no one knows of how we have suffered as a family. We left our place overnight under threat from the Khobragades,” he claimed.