In a two-pronged challenge against the immunity claims of Devyani Khobragade, former Deputy Consul General of India arrested on December 12 2013 in New York, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara targeted the defence arguments relating to both the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the senior Indian diplomat’s alleged accreditation to the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The first debate has already been fleshed out in detail, including the State Department’s interpretation of the VCCR, that it only provides for immunity from prosecution for official, not private acts, and that it therefore did not apply to Ms. Khobragade’s employment of Sangeeta Richard, her domestic assistant, for whose alleged underpayment and linked visa fraud Ms. Khobragade has been criminally indicted.
However the latest memorandum filed by Mr. Bharara’s office brings to light several new facts regarding the defence’s claim that Ms. Khobragade had full UN diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest, an “assertion [that] is incorrect and flatly rejected by the State Department.”
In this regard the U.S. Attorney noted four key facts. First, the memorandum notes, Ms. Khobragade “was not exercising any function related to UN representation at, or immediately before or after, the time of her arrest…” and was not travelling to or from places where UNGA meetings were occurring.
Second, Section 11 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN applies to “high-level non-resident” diplomats and not consular officer of the rank of Ms. Khobragade because she “did not travel from India to New York for business before the UN; she resided in New York as India’s Deputy Consul General and that is why she was in New York at the time of her arrest.”
Third, Mr. Bharara’s office argued, Ms. Khobragade’s UN Accreditation Record “does not say what she claims it says,” and contrary to the defence claim that it establishes her appointment to the UN from August 26 2013, “continuing unabated through and including December 31 2013,” it suggests an “arrival date” of August 26 and “departure date” of August 31.
In this regard the U.S. Attorney also echoed the State Department view that Ms. Khobragade’s name appearing on a list of those appearing at the UN between August 2013 and August 2016 was “incorrect and meaningless” as the 68th UNGA ended in December 2013 and the Indian Prime Minister’s engagement in September 2013.
Finally, Mr. Bharara’s memorandum notes, “No dual-accreditation request was sent to the State Department’s Office of Protocol,” and for this reason at all times she only remained identified by the Protocol Office as Deputy Consul General and her name was not in the UNGA delegation members list produced by the UN.