In an unexpected development Devyani Khobragade (39), formerly India’s Deputy Consul General, has been indicted ahead of her preliminary hearing date, on charges of visa fraud and for making false statements, in the criminal case brought against her by the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York.
Her indictment on Thursday afternoon prior to the January 13 hearing date came close on the heels of what appeared to be confusion over whether she had left the U.S. after being granted full diplomatic immunity in her new role at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations.
In a letter to District Judge Shira Scheindlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — an Indian-American — said that his office was under the impression that Ms. Khobragade was “very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status” by the State Department and she “departed the U.S. today.”
In that regard, he added, the charges against her would remain pending “until such time as she can be brought to Court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or [her] return to the U.S. in a non-immune status.”
Within an hour of the court putting out this statement to media, however, the office of the defence counsel for Ms. Khobragade, Daniel Arshack, called The Hindu to explain that “Despite Preet Bharara’s report, to the contrary Devyani Khobragade has not left the country.” Further, she was said to be at home in Manhattan with her children.
Within a short time of that comment the office of Mr. Bharara released a second statement explaining that they had been advised by the State Department that, “pursuant to their request, [Ms.] Khobragade was to have left the U.S. this afternoon.”
However subsequent to the filing indictment documents with the court, Mr. Arshack advised Mr. Bharara’s office “that she has not, in fact, departed the U.S.”
Meanwhile reports quoted Ms. Khobragade saying, “I will show my immunity to the court. The court will see that I have diplomatic immunity. Only then will I leave the U.S.”