Peruvian Ambassador under investigation for alleged exploitation in New Zealand

Newshub Nation can reveal a foreign Ambassador is under investigation in his country for alleged exploitation on Kiwi soil.

Peru's Ambassador to New Zealand brought a woman to Wellington to work as a maid. One expert says the claims - if true - would amount to "modern slavery".

The woman has accused him of multiple breaches of labour law - and we've spoken to several others who tell stories of exploitation and abuse. 

From 10,000km across the ocean, Diana Baratta came for a better life. Peru to New Zealand, Lima to Wellington - for a maid this was the chance of a lifetime, one simply too good to pass up.

"It was a great chance and opportunity for me and my family," she says. She'd work for her country - for Peru's Ambassador - earning more money than ever before.

Forty hours a week at New Zealand's minimum wage is four times Peru's average income. She'd have to leave her family to do it, but her children would reap the rewards.

"I have a daughter that was going to start university and I have two younger children who are minors," she says.

But today, nearly two years later, Diana's completely unable to help them.

"Now I am not supporting my family in Peru."

She's out of a job and out of a home - a victim, she says, of exploitation by Peru's Ambassador to New Zealand. Overworked, underpaid and bullied - the allegations are extensive.

"It could be compared to slavery," says employment lawyer Bridget Smith.

"I gave everything for them, I came here for them, I trusted them," says Diana.

So how did it go so wrong?

Her story begins in 2019. Peru was about to reopen its embassy, which had been closed since 2010. Sandra (last name withheld by request) was hired as a personal assistant to the new incoming Ambassador.

"It was a reestablishment of the whole embassy. And so new office, everything was new," says Sandra.

It was a time of pride and hope.

"I was very excited because this time I will actually work as a Peruvian for my embassy," she says.

Soon Ambassador Javier Augusto Prado Miranda arrived in New Zealand, receiving his credentials from the Governor-General in April 2019 in a ceremony at Government house.

Diana Barratta.
Diana Barratta. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

He brought his two children and his wife along with him, Maria Teresa Albaredo de Prado. Sandra says their arrival was a turning point. When we ask what they were like to work for, Sandra breaks down in tears.

"They were very abusive," she says. "Nothing was ever enough."

Diana also arrived with the family to live and work at the official residence - a sprawling, $2 million property in a leafy suburb of Lower Hutt. She would clean and cook for the Ambassador's family, just as she had for five years in Peru.

But Diana had never lived with the Prados, and in New Zealand she says things changed. On top of her usual cooking and cleaning she says new jobs started piling up.

She was also catering for official functions, so the family wouldn't have to hire a chef.

Instead of her contracted 40 hours, she claims she worked "double" - 80 or 90 hours a week. Despite this, she alleges she was never paid overtime.

"I believe they owe me around 1000 hours," says Diana.

She says when she raised it with the embassy, she was told the 40 hours in her employment contract didn't really apply to her.

"They told me that I had no hours," she says, "that my work was very different from the others, from those who worked at the embassy - that I had no reason to compare with them."

Sandra says it was deliberate.

"They knew who to do these things with. And that means that their target was the people that were not hired in New Zealand, and therefore the Peruvians."

Javier Augusto Prado Miranda with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
Javier Augusto Prado Miranda with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. Photo credit: Governor-General of NZ

Employment lawyer Bridget Smith says if true, it's a serious breach.

"I guess you'd call it modern day slavery - at the very least - it's serious exploitation," says Smith.

Diana was especially vulnerable, living and working at the Ambassador's residence. She doesn't speak any English, and her right to work here was tied to her job. The only time she could leave the property was when her work was considered finished.

But she says even then she didn't have freedom. She didn't have a key to the residence, and they had control of when she came and went.

"It sounds like her freedoms were significantly limited, and in almost every way, her minimum rights and entitlements were not met," says Smith.

Those who worked at the Peruvian embassy say their work was no less demanding. Sandra was also working long hours and says she was subject to verbal abuse - especially by the Ambassador's wife.

"She called me stupid and silly and inefficient, and that I was not good enough," says Sandra. "No one would tell that she was a controlling person and abusive and demanding."

Sandra says the Ambassador did nothing. She quit in August of 2019 and made a formal complaint to Peru. The Peruvian Foreign Ministry has never responded.

Meanwhile, Diana's ordeal dragged on.

"I see Diana, and I see myself," says Sandra. "Even worse, because she's suffering more than me."

Diana says she was regularly bullied by Albareda de Prado, the Ambassador's wife.

Recordings heard by Newshub Nation reveal her calling Diana "pendeja" - a Spanish curse word for "stupid" or "asshole". Others capture yelling and swearing. Diana says she needed proof. 

"The way the lady treated me, how she yelled at me, how she spoke to me," says Diana. "Everything I'm saying is the truth."

The allegations of exploitation go further still. Diana says she was forced to spend her own money on the Ambassador's family's food.

She was entitled to an allowance, to be spent on groceries for herself. But she alleges she was never told this.

"The purchase was made by the ambassador's wife," says Diana. "She decides what to buy and what not to buy."

Instead she says the Ambassador's wife had her spend her allowance on them.

Sandra handled the accounts for the embassy - she says Diana's story is true..

"They didn't tell her that that was the money for her food," says Sandra. "They used it on themselves."

It's a pattern of alleged exploitation other migrant workers have seen before. We spoke to another woman on the promise of anonymity. Like Diana, she worked as a maid for a previous Ambassador. She says she too worked 80 hours a week.

"But they [didn't] pay extra," she says. "Just working like slaves for little money."

She says he withheld a large chunk of her paycheck, keeping the difference for himself.

"Taking half - or more than half of the salary for his pocket. This is corruption," she says.

Diana's allegations came to a head when she raised it at the embassy. Soon she found herself out of a job.

"I think it was because of that that the Ambassador decided to fire me," says Diana.

"They were trying to make her redundant without any reason," Sandra says. "They wanted to get rid of her because she knew a lot."

 They gave her a week to leave the property and when she returned to collect her belongings, she found them piled outside the front door.

"That was the last time I had contact with the Ambassador," says Diana. "They never called me to say thank you."

She made a complaint with Peru's Foreign Ministry - it's 129 pages long.

In a statement, Ambassador Javier Prado confirmed he's under investigation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peru. He says he can't comment while that's taking place. 

He also claims Diana's employment and firing were in accordance with Peruvian law - that only Peru has jurisdiction, and New Zealand law doesn't apply.

Diana's contract is a little more murky. Newshub Nation had it translated. It says the employer - Ambassador Prado - "will respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state".

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta says she expects nothing less of diplomats.

"They [should] abide by good employment practices… absolutely by New Zealand law," says Mahuta.

But enforcing the law is a different story. Ambassadors have diplomatic immunity, as Diana discovered when she went to police.

Via email, they told Diana: "Police has not yet concluded its investigation into the matter and will raise it with New Zealand diplomatic channels before any final case decision is made. As discussed the likely outcome is the ambassador and his spouse's diplomatic immunity will not be waived."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it takes these issues "very seriously" - but their ability to intervene is "limited". They've raised it with the Ambassador and with Peru.

"While I'm not going to go into the details, we are working with the embassy and the Ambassador on a number of allegations that have been made," Mahuta says.

 The Labour inspectorate won't be investigating - they don't believe they have jurisdiction. 

 None of which is much help to Diana.

"I want justice," she says.

She can't work on her interim visa. She's relying on friends for shelter and food, unable to provide for her family at home.

"On the one hand, my family want me to return, but as a mother I feel that I will not be able to do anything, because the situation in Peru is terrible," says Diana.

She wants someone held to account.

If you have a story to share, senior reporter Conor Whitten is contactable on