Devyani Khobragade, former Indian Deputy Consul General who was arrested on the streets of New York City on December 12 2013, did not enjoy immunity at the time of her arrest, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, Indian-American Preet Bharara, has argued, and after she departed from the U.S. on January 9 2014 she has no immunity from further prosecution in the criminal case against her.
In a 22-page memorandum Mr. Bharara urged the U.S. court of the Southern District of New York deny a motion filed earlier Ms. Khobragade, to dismiss the January 9 visa fraud indictment against her on the grounds that she had immunity from arrest and prosecution owing to her accreditation to the United Nations from August to December 2013 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attendance of the General Assembly (UNGA).
In a statement to The Hindu, Ms. Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack said, “The U.S. Attorney is again wrong on the facts and the law. The court will decide these issues.”
Attaching eight documents of evidential proof for his arguments Mr. Bharara said in the memorandum, “Having left the U.S. and returned to India, the defendant currently has no diplomatic or consular status in the U.S., and the consular level immunity that she did have at the relevant times does not give her immunity from the charges in this case, crimes arising out of non-official acts.”
Regarding the prior UN affiliation of Ms. Khobragade, who faces criminal charges linked to her alleged underpayment and exploitation of her domestic employee Sangeeta Richard, Mr. Bharara added, “The defendant attempts through her motion to concoct a theory of immunity out of a UNGA ‘Blue Card’ that she purportedly had for a brief Indian delegation visit to the UN that ended close to three months before her arrest. That attempt fails both factually and legally…”
The U.S. Attorney memorandum goes on to cite multiple sections of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and communications between the State Department and the Indian embassy here on the case to press its case that the motion to have Ms. Khobragade’s indictment dismissed should be denied.
However Mr. Bharara also noted that since Ms. Khobragade had already left the U.S. “the issue of bail is now moot for all practical purposes… [and] the government therefore does not object to exoneration of her bail conditions.”
In presenting its arguments the U.S Attorney’s office echoed the State Department advisory to Ms. Khobragade as she left for India, that she would not be permitted to return to the U.S. except to submit to the jurisdiction of the New York court, and that her name would be placed in the Visa and Immigration Lookout systems to prevent routine issuance of a visa to her in the future, and a warrant may be issued for her arrest.
Ms. Khobragade’s husband, U.S. citizen and Pennsylvania University Professor Aakash Singh Rathore, is still in the U.S. along with her two daughters aged four and seven.