Sun, Jun 28, 2015 - Page 5 News List

India’s top diplomat quits NZ after wife accused of assault

FREE MAN:Ravi Thapar rejected allegations that the distressed man who had accused his wife, Sharmila Thapar, of assault had been kept in slavery

AFP, WELLINGTON

New Delhi’s top diplomat in New Zealand said yesterday that he would return to India, but denied that 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 he was assaulted by Sharmila Thapar, the wife of Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar, but declined to lay a formal complaint.

A removal van was at Thapar’s Wellington home yesterday morning, where Sharmila Thapar refused to answer questions.

However, Ravi Thapar denied any suggestions a staff member had been assaulted and 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 conceptualize, 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 the ministry was aware that the high commissioner — the equivalent of ambassador in Commonwealth nations — was leaving.

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

New Zealand officials said further questions about Ravi Thapar’s departure should be directed to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The staff member was taken to a 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.

Ravi 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,” he said. “The question of slavery doesn’t arise. That means someone who is not allowed to leave. Not at all. He had adequate and umpteen dozens of opportunities [to leave].”

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