27/06/2015 4:59 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

India Recalls Top New Zealand Diplomat Ravi Thapar Amid Allegations Of Assault, Slavery

High Commission New Zealand

NEW DELHI — High Commissioner for India in New Zealand, Ravi Thapar, has categorically denied he is leaving because of allegations that his wife assaulted a member of his domestic staff. He said he needed to be back in 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 13,000 km away just talking to her on the phone," Thapar told The New Zealand Herald.

Thapar's wife has been accused of physically assaulting a domestic help at their residence. Thapar said 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.

Also Read: India Recalls New Zealand Envoy Ravi Thapar

"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.

The diplomat said that "within minutes" of the man, believed to be a chef, leaving the house, he alerted the local police with his passport details. "He had his jacket ... but no spares, which means he was in touch with external collaborators," he said.

"My wife is very popular," he said.

Thapar had not agreed to an interview with the police.

PTI reported earlier in the day that Thapar was "posted back" to New Delhi and a detail investigation is being carried out into the matter, quoting the External Affairs Ministry.

The action has been taken based on report of a team sent to New Zealand last month by the Ministry to conduct an independent inquiry following the allegations.

The purported victim walked 20 kms one night from the diplomat's residence to Wellington where he was found by members of public in a distressed state.

He was then taken to a police station and later spent several nights at a Wellington Night Shelter. Through an interpreter, the chef alleged that he was kept in slavery and physically assaulted by the High Commissioner's wife Sharmila Thapar and threatened with assault by Ravi Thapar. He did not lodge a formal complaint.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the issue was first brought to the Ministry's notice on May 10 when one of the Service Staff Members of the High Commission was found missing.

"Though no charges were pressed by the Service Staff member, the Ministry will investigate the matter further. The High Commissioner has been posted back to Headquarters," he said.

Swarup said the High Commission had immediately informed both New Zealand Police and Foreign Office and authorities reverted with the information that the staff member presented himself to the police on May 11 and made certain allegations.

He said the Ministry takes all such cases "very seriously" and a team was deputed from Headquarters to New Zealand to ascertain the facts and conduct an independent inquiry.

"The team liaised with the New Zealand authorities to resolve the matter. The team also facilitated the return of the Service Staff member who wanted to return to India. He returned on May 28," Swarup said.

Also, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is aware Thapar is preparing to leave the country.

"MFAT was aware a staff member raised with New Zealand police concerns about his treatment in the high commission," a spokesman said.

"MFAT has been advised the individual concerned elected not to take the matter further. That staff member had independent legal representation and decided to return to India." (With inputs from agencies)

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Police said the domestic help did not want to take the matter further and wanted to go home. The staff member left New Zealand on May 28.