Indian diplomat indicted for visa fraud leaves U.S.

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – The Indian deputy consul at the center of a diplomatic row between India and the U.S. was indicted for visa fraud and making false statements on Thursday, but she was not arraigned due to her diplomatic immunity and for leaving the country.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara informed Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheidlin by letter that the grand jury charges against Devyani Khobragade, 39, will remain pending until her diplomatic immunity is waived by the Indian government and she returns to the U.S. without immunity from prosecution. Bharara said Khobragade was allowed to leave the country Thursday.

The deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs requested Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan Federal Court Wednesday to postpone by a month the Jan. 13 deadline for the filing of her indictment but this was rejected.

Khobragade was arrested and temporarily jailed on Dec. 12 for allegedly helping to submit to the U.S. State Department documents saying she was paying her female nanny $4,500 per month. The nanny, however, was found receiving only $573 a month or a measly $3.31 an hour. The nanny also was not given any day off and denied a sick leave.

If convicted of the charges, Khobragade could be imprisoned for up to 15 years.

The Indian government gave Khobragade diplomatic immunity by transferring her to a post at the Indian Mission to the United Nations. Prosecutors asked the Indian government to waive her immunity but it did not agree so the State Department asked her to leave the country instead.

India was outraged by the strip-searching of Khobragade during her arrest and her temporary detention before she posted a $200,000 bail. The Indian government retaliated by revoking diplomatic IDs to American staffs at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. An Indian external affairs official also asked the embassy to shut down a recreational facility by Jan. 16 because commercial activities there was illegal.

New Delhi also asked Washington to drop the charges against Khobragade and apologize for the alleged maltreatment.

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