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Devyani indicted for visa fraud, granted diplomatic immunity

January 10, 2014 04:33 IST

Senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was on Friday indicted for visa fraud and making false statements but can leave the United States as she has been accorded diplomatic immunity.

The charges against 39-year-old Khobragade will remain and she will have to face trial, if she returns to the US without diplomatic immunity, US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a letter to District Judge Shira Scheindlin.

Bharara said the grand jury has indicted the diplomat on two counts of visa fraud and making false statements in connection with the visa application of her domestic help Sangeeta Richard.

"There will not need to be an arraignment on the Indictment scheduled at this time. We understand that the defendant was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status," Bharara said in his letter.

"Therefore, the charges will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to Court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or the defendant’s return to the United States in a non-immune status. The time between now and the time that she is able to be brought before the Court is excluded automatically under the Speedy Trial Act, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3161(h)(3)(A), which provides for the exclusion of any period of delay resulting from the unavailability of the defendant," he said.

When contacted, Khobragade told PTI, "I will show my immunity to the court. The court will see that I have diplomatic immunity. Only then will I leave the US."

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.

The diplomat was strip searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats. 

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