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Rediff.com  » News » Devyani indicted for visa fraud, leaves US with diplomatic immunity

Devyani indicted for visa fraud, leaves US with diplomatic immunity

Last updated on: January 10, 2014 08:56 IST

In a day of dramatic developments, the Indian diplomat is indicted on two charges, but she has left the US after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.

'I will come out of this vindicated,' Dr Khobragade tells Rediff.com

Rediff.com's Suman Guha Mozumder and George Joseph report from New York.

In a dramatic turn of events, Dr Devyani Khobragade, India's former deputy consul general of India in New York, was on Thursday, January 9, indicted by a grand jury in a federal court in Manhattan on two counts of visa fraud and making false statements in violation of United States laws.

Dr Khobragade had been arrested on December 12 on the charge that she had lied in the visa application she had filed for her caretaker Sangeeta Richard to the US State Department.

Full text of the jury indictment  

The arrest led to an unprecdented diplomatic stand-off with the Indian government withdrawing privileges extended to American diplomats in India.

Prosecutors said 'Khobragade was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity' and pursuant to the request of the US State Department will have to leave the United States.

Though the prosecution said Dr Khobrgade had left the US at noon January 9, she texted Rediff.com around 6 pm, saying she was on her way to the airport and would leave the US on an evening flight to India.

She confirmed that she has been asked to leave the country. Her two young daughters will remain in the US since her husband and his family lives in the US.

"Please thank the Indian Americans that believed me and supported me. I will come out of this vindicated," Dr Khobragade said in her text message to Rediff.com

"The case has been dismissed. The charges against me are completely false and baseless. I look forward to demonstrating that to all of you," she added in her message.

Earlier media reports indicated that Dr Khobragade was willing to enter a plea deal with the prosecution so that the case would end. But India's ministry of external affairs was not receptive to the idea as the Indian government was not ready to dilute its claims of diplomatic immunity.

For Dr Khobragade, returning to the US is important as her husband lives in the US. A pending case will hamper her chances to re-enter the country and may result in reviving the prosecution.

A senior diplomat at the Permnanent Mission of India to the United Nations where Dr Khobragade was posted last month told Rediff.com that she had left for India, but said the charges against her have not been dropped.

The US State Department, the senior diplomat added, granted Dr Khobragade diplomatic immunity on Wednesday evening around 6 pm.

Earlier, the prosecutors said the charges against the Indian diplomat 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,' implying that the charges against her have not been dropped despite being granted 'diplomatic immunity.'

'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... which provides for the exclusion of any period of delay resulting from the unavailability of the defendant,' Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told US District Judge Shira A Scheindlin.

'In this case, the defendant is unavailable because her whereabouts are known but (her) presence for trial cannot be obtained by due diligence or (she) resists appearing at or being returned for trial,' Bharara added.

'We will alert the court promptly if we learn that the defendant returns to the United States in a non-immune capacity, at which time the government will proceed to prosecute this case and prove the charges in the indictment,' Bharara said.

'This office had been advised by the State Department that, pursuant to its request, Devyani Khobragade was to have left the United States this afternoon. In a letter sent to the court upon the filing of the indictment of Khobragade, we stated our understanding that she had left the country... Khobragade's lawyer advised that she has not, in fact, departed the US,' James Margolin, the spokesperson, said in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York