Devyani Khobragade, India’s former Deputy Consul General in New York who left the U.S. on Thursday after being indicted on visa fraud charges, has lost her diplomatic immunity, will be placed on an “immigration lookout system” and is likely to also have an arrest warrant issued in her name the State Department said.
After the Department acceded to her credentialing request for the United Nations on Wednesday evening, Ms. Khobragade received full diplomatic immunity that protected her from further arrest or prosecution.
The U.S. then requested a waiver of the immunity State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Friday, but “it was denied”.
At that point the U.S. policy to then ask that the concerned diplomat “depart when there are serious charges involved”, applied and thus on Thursday evening Ms. Khobragade boarded a plane for New Delhi, where she was set to resume duties in a new role in the Ministry of External Affairs.
However Ms. Psaki reiterated that the charges against the senior Indian diplomat, which relate to allegations of underpaying her domestic worker Sangeeta Richard, would stand and her immunity ceased to apply the moment her role at the UN ended.
“Prior to her departure it was conveyed to her and to the Government of India that she is not permitted to return to the U.S. except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court,” Ms. Psaki explained, adding that the “charges remain in place”, and the prosecutor in the Southern Distict of New York would confirm whether an arrest warrant had been issued yet.
When pressed on why the State Department had agreed to grant Ms. Khobragade’s U.N. credentials request Ms. Psaki said “We would only refuse accreditation and a request for accreditation like this in rare circumstances such as events related to national security risks,” such as espionage suspicions.
It appeared however that opportunity afforded to Ms. Khobragade to exit the U.S. was interpreted as an act of diplomatic expulsion and New Delhi on Friday applied the principle of reciprocity and expelled a U.S. diplomat of similar status to Ms. Khobragade.
Ms. Psaki confirmed that a U.S. official accredited to Mission India would be leaving his post at the request of the Government of India, and “We deeply regret that the Indian Government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel.”
On a broader note she added that this has “clearly been a challenging time in the U.S.-India relationship,” and Washington hoped that “this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place”.
On the subject of fighting human trafficking into the country the Spokesperson noted that the U.S. was “committed… to ensuring all domestic workers are paid for all hours worked… [and] all diplomatic and consular personnel are aware of and abiding by their obligations under U.S. law”.