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US officials made mistake in Khobragade's probe, arrest: Lawyer

December 25, 2013 12:05 IST

Devyani Khobragade's lawyer on Wednesday said the United States authorities goofed up in the investigation and arrest of the Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges as a federal agent made a "serious" mistake in reading the paperwork submitted regarding her maid's salary.

Daniel Arshack, Khobragade's lawyer, said Mark Smith, the diplomatic security services agent handled the investigation and arrest of Khobragade and drew up and swore to the accuracy of the formal complaint in the case.

Smith "simply made an error in reading the DS-160 form which supported the visa application for the domestic worker, Sangeeta Richard," Arshack told PTI.

"He erroneously and disastrously believed that the $ 4,500 per month salary entry on the form was Richard's expected salary when, in fact, it was clearly a reporting of the base salary to be earned by the employer, Khobragade, in the US," he said.

The lawyer said Khobagrade's base salary figure of $ 4,500 per month was required and appropriately reported on the DS-160 form, which is the online non-immigrant visa application required to be submitted by those seeking US visas. It was submitted so that US embassy officials in New Delhi could determine that Khobragade would be earning enough money to afford to pay Richard the $ 1,560 per month (9.75/hour for 40 hours a week) which had been agreed to according to the contract between Richard and Khobragade.

"Somebody who messes up on the paperwork and causes a terrible thing to occur is very very serious," he said.

Meanwhile, United Nations spokeswoman Morana Song confirmed Khobragade's accreditation to the UN headquarters in New York, saying, "The United Nations has received notification to register Ms Khobragade as a member of the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations."

"We can confirm that the United Nations has processed this request per its standard procedures," she said.

Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Richard. She was released on a $ 250,000 bond after being charged with visa fraud.

Subsequent revelations that she was strip searched and held with criminals triggered a row between the two sides.

Yoshita Singh in New York