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US says visa fraud case against Khobragade would remain

December 21, 2013 11:18 IST

Showing no signs of yielding to India's demand, the United States on Saturday said that Devyani Khobragade's transfer to India's Permanent Mission at the United Nations will not give her diplomatic immunity retroactively and the visa fraud case against her would remain.

"When immunity is conferred, it does not retroactively take effect at a previous point in time but relates solely to the diplomat's current status," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki had said.

"So, I think some of the confusion here has been if there is a change in status, does that mean that there is a clean slate from past charges. There's not," Paski said.

"For anyone, it would apply for the length of time that they have that diplomatic status," the State Department spokesperson said.

"Receiving diplomatic immunity does not nullify any previously existing criminal charges. Those remain on the books. Nor does obtaining diplomatic immunity protect the diplomat from prosecution indefinitely. It relates to the status of a diplomat's current status for the length of the time of that status," Psaki said.

Diplomatic immunity means, among other things, that a foreign diplomat is not subject to criminal jurisdiction in the United States for the time they are a diplomat, for the time they have that immunity, she said.

After her arrest on visa fraud charges in New York last week, Khobragade, 39, was transferred this week from the Indian consulate to its Permanent Mission at the UN.

Psaki also said that the US is yet to get an official request "through the proper channels for accreditation" and hinted the full diplomatic immunity would remain till the time she is posted at the UN.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested and then handed over to the US Marshals Service. She has since been posted to India's Permanent Mission in New York.

Khobragade was taken into custody as she was dropping her daughter to school before being released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.

The ill-treatment of its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families.

India also asked the US to drop all charges against Khobragade and demnded an apology for mistreatment.

Khobragade, if convicted, could face a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration. 

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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