Exclusive: Police investigate incident between chef and Indian diplomat’s wife.
The High Commissioner for India, Ravi Thapar, has denied he is leaving New Zealand as a result of allegations his wife assaulted a member of his domestic staff.
At his home in Lower Hutt today, Mr Thapar told NZME. he was going back to India to take care of his mother.
"I'm going but to take care of my mum because my dad passed away last year. I can't keep up 13,000km away just talking to her on the phone," he said.
It is alleged a staff member, thought to be a chef, was found by a member of the public in a distressed state in Wellington after walking from the residence in Lower Hutt to the city.
The person who picked him up took him to the Wellington police station out of concern for his welfare. Victim Support became involved and he was taken to the Wellington Night Shelter where he stayed for a few nights.
Mr Thapar denied the allegations, saying his wife was an "experienced diplomatic spouse" incapable of assaulting an "able-bodied man".
"The guy had absolute freedom to walk away and to do whatever ... we trusted him," he said.
Thapar alleged the man wanted to "concoct" a story but didn't succeed.
He said the Indian government was duty-bound to take care of the man, who worked in the house's kitchen.
"You must understand that people who are not exposed, people who are not educated, people who are sometimes first-timers abroad, who have heard of these ... will use this opportunity sometimes to get sympathy from other agencies," he said.
Mr Thapar said "within minutes" of the man leaving the house, he alerted both local police and his bosses in Delhi, and also provided the man's passport details.
"He had his jacket ... but no spares, which means he was in touch with external collaborators, he said.
Mr Thapar said he had "very happy memories" of life in New Zealand.
Although he said he'd like to return, he didn't think he would any time soon.
Mr Thapar said some of his "diplomatic colleagues" implored him and his wife to stay in the country.
"My wife is very popular."
He declined to have his picture taken at his home.
He gave no indication of any upcoming job offers in India, saying he will "be home" after flying out next week. He referred to his home, which he said was in Delhi, as his "headquarters" where he'd spend time with his mum and relatives.
The Weekend Herald reported that the man spoke to the police through an interpreter on May 9.
The man alleged he was physically assaulted by Mrs Thapar at the residence where he worked and lived, and threatened with assault by Mr Thapar. But he would not make a formal complaint and wanted to return to India.
The police sought the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which alerted India's Ministry of External Affairs.
An official from the Indian ministry came to New Zealand to help sort out the situation, including retrieving the chef's passport and belongings from the residence.
The staff member left New Zealand on May 28.
The police wanted to speak with Mr Thapar but he would not agree to an interview or allow any other member of the mission to be approached.
Because no one has been arrested or charged, there has been no question of invoking diplomatic immunity.
Mr Thapar began his posting in December 2013. It is thought he has not been formally recalled but he will be leaving his post soon, much earlier than would normally be the case.
The police last night did not say who in the High Commission had made a complaint against whom but confirmed officers had recently undertaken an investigation into allegations of assault on a member of staff at the High Commission of India.
The police said they spoke to the alleged victim on May 9 and confirmed he did not want to take the matter further and wanted to go home.
"He was provided with legal advice and appropriate welfare support, while police sought assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to facilitate the matter."
The police said that a check on the man's welfare in India confirmed that he was fine and happy to be home.
The treatment of domestic staff by Indian diplomats is a highly sensitive issue with India - it caused a rift recently between India and the United States.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully referred all inquiries to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
A spokesman said the ministry was aware that the High Commissioner for India was departing.
The ministry was also aware that a staff member raised with the New Zealand police concerns about his treatment in the High Commission.
It had been advised that the individual concerned elected not to take the matter further.
That staff member had independent legal representation and decided to return to India, according to the ministry.
The office of Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson was approached by the Night Shelter to give assistance and his office helped the chef to find support in the local Indian community.
"They were concerned about this guy who was staying there."