Indian diplomat denies wife hurt worker

High Commissioner to leave New Zealand but says move is not related to allegations against wife

Wellington - New Delhi's top diplomat in New Zealand said yesterday he would return to India but denied his relocation was linked to accusations that his wife had assaulted a staff member.

Police said a member of staff at the Indian diplomatic mission alleged that he was assaulted by Mrs Sharmila Thapar, the wife of High Commissioner Ravi Thapar, but declined to lodge a formal complaint.

A removal van was at Mr Thapar's Wellington home yesterday morning where Mrs Thapar refused to answer questions.

Absurd accusations

"It's very, very absurd that a lady of 50-plus with these medical issues could confront or could even think of, or even conceptualise, assaulting a physically able-bodied person of about 26 years old."

INDIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER RAVI THAPAR, whose wife Sharmila (far left) has been accused of assaulting a staff member. He pointed out that his wife is recovering from a car accident.

However, Mr Thapar denied any suggestions the staff member had been assaulted and said his wife was recovering from an accident and could not have assaulted anyone.

The staff member was taken to the Wellington police station early last month when he was found wandering the streets in a distressed state after walking nearly 20km from the High Commission.

Mr Thapar also rejected allegations that the man had been kept in slavery, saying he was free to move about at all times.

"He was the custodian of the house, he had our implicit and complete trust. He had the keys. Everything was open," Mr Thapar said. "The question of slavery doesn't arise," he added.

Mr Thapar said he was returning to India to care for 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 told reporters.

He added that his wife continued to suffer the effects of a car accident, sometimes wore a neck support and would not have assaulted anyone.

"It's very, very absurd that a lady of 50-plus with these medical issues could confront or could even think of, or even conceptualise, assaulting a physically able-bodied person of about 26 years old," he told Fairfax Media.

A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesman confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that it was aware the High Commissioner - the equivalent of ambassador in Commonwealth countries - was leaving.

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

AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'Indian diplomat denies wife hurt worker'. Print Edition | Subscribe