Devyani Khobragade flies back home after indictment in US for visa fraud
Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava and Sushmita Dutta
New Delhi: The United States prosecutors informed a court there late on Thursday that the New York-based Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest sparked an intense row, has left the country as a grand jury unveiled charges of visa fraud and making false statements against her.
Reports suggested that Devyani left for India after being granted full diplomatic immunity by the US.
“An Indian diplomat, whose arrest over treatment of her servant sparked a bitter row, has left the United States,” US authorities said.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also confirmed that Devyani is on her way back to India and she has been transferred to New Delhi.
As per reports, Devyani who has been given given G1 visa, left her children behind in the United States. The diplomat also thanked the Government of India (GoI) and the national media for helping her caue.
Devyani’s lawyer Daniel Arshack has once again categorically dismissed charges against her and said that she did not make any false statement.
Ahead of her departure, Devyani too said, “I will show my immunity to the court. The court will see that. I have diplomatic immunity. Only then will I leave the US.”
After weeks of escalating tensions between the usually friendly countries, the United States and India reached an agreement in which diplomat Devyani Khobragade left the country but still faces charges if she returns, officials said.
Meanwhile, India yesterday refused the United States` request to waive the diplomatic immunity of senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade after the US accepted her request for UN accreditation.
Preet Bharara, the US Attorney in Manhattan, whose office is handling the case said, “Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade indicted on visa fraud charge. Also indicted by jury for making false statements.”
Bharara further confirmed that Khodragade has been accorded diplomatic immunity.
In an indictment, the grand jury said Khobragade had a contract to pay her Indian servant 30,000 rupees ($573) a month - in line with wages in India, but well below the US minimum wage.
The indictment said Khobragade, on a temporary work visa form for the servant, listed a monthly pay of $4,500. The indictment said the figure "did not match any actual income" - not that of the servant or that of Khobragade, after some media reports indicated that prosecutors may have mistakenly looked at the diplomat`s salary.
"Knowing that if the US authorities were told the truth about the actual terms of her employment agreement with the victim, Khobragade would not have been able to obtain a visa for the victim, Khobragade decided to make false statements to the US authorities," the indictment said.
The development came as after after Khobragade`s lawyers lost a bid to delay the January 13 deadline for a preliminary hearing to be held or an indictment to be filed in the case.
A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.
The December 12 handcuffing and strip-search of Khobragade, India`s deputy consul general in New York, caused widespread outrage in India.
However, she has denied the charges of visa fraud and underpaying her nanny. India had demanded the US take back all charges against Khobragade and offer an unconditional apology.
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