Devyani case: US prosecutor Preet Bharara opposes diplomat’s plea

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January 8, 2014

NEW YORK/NEW DELHI: India-born US prosecutor Preet Bharara has told a judge in New York that his office is opposed to the one-month extension of the deadline for charging Devyani Khobragade in the visa fraud case as sought by her, saying plea discussions can continue even after she is charged.

January 8, 2014

NEW YORK/NEW DELHI: India-born US prosecutor Preet Bharara has told a judge in New York that his office is opposed to the one-month extension of the deadline for charging Devyani Khobragade in the visa fraud case as sought by her, saying plea discussions can continue even after she is charged.

Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack has submitted a request with magistrate judge Sarah Netburn seeking postponement of the preliminary hearing date, currently scheduled for January 13 and extension of the indictment deadline by 30 days "to February 12, 2014".

Responding to Arshack's request, Bharara wrote to the judge that the government is not seeking an extension of the deadline for indictment.

He said the one-month adjournment of the January 13 preliminary hearing date has been sought in order to facilitate the plea discussions that have been ongoing between his office and Khobragade. Bharara pointed out that the plea discussions to resolve the issue can continue even after the indictment has been filed.

Meanwhile, even as India awaits G-1 visa for diplomat Devyani Khobragade, which will ensure full diplomatic immunity for her, the government is also worried about the long-term fallout of the issue on India-US relations.

While the government is no longer insisting on an "unconditional" apology from the state department, it has also conveyed to the Americans that it won't be business as usual between the two nations if Khobragade doesn't get full immunity in her capacity as counselor in India's permanent mission to the UN.

According to sources here, the US has to immediately ensure full immunity to Khobragade and then work for dropping of charges.

India has accused the US of double-standards highlighting how US diplomats in the past have been accused of committing heinous crimes abroad and still managing to evade prosecution by local or even US authorities.

Former state department official, Peter van Buren, mentioned a series of such offences in an article last month, one of which related to the rape of an Ethiopian maid by the husband of a US diplomat in Japan. The diplomat was alleged to have facilitated the rape. Van Buren recalled how she returned to the US, worked as a recruiter for the Department, even receiving cash bonus and later managed to leave the country even while the case was on. "Has the FBI been called in by State, as the FBI has jurisdiction over crimes on federal property?," asked Van Buren. The Ethiopian maid was allegedly being paid less than a dollar for every hour of work.

Van Buren also wrote about how a community-liaison officer at the US consulate in Naples complained that she was forced to resign after she exposed the consul general's alleged "office trysts with subordinates and hookers". One subordinate was allegedly forced to have an abortion, said Van Buren.

Accusing the state department of double-standards in what it expects from foreign diplomats, the former Foreign Service official also gave the example of Chuck Lisenbee, a former state department Beirut security officer, who was being probed for allegedly sexually assaulting local guards. He is now a special agent in Washington for the office of diplomatic vehicles, enforcement and outreach, according to a state department phone directory.

"Agents were only given three days to investigate the allegations against him, according to a memo seen by the Post. It is alleged that Lisenbee first got into trouble when he tried to make out with a fellow (male) security officer in Baghdad," said Van Buren, as he cited the example of a former US ambassador to Belgium who allegedly solicited "sexual favours from both prostitutes and minor children".

India has said the Khobragade case is not about mistreatment of a domestic employee but rather US laws being gamed for immigration purposes.

The Indian embassy in Washington said India's demands include respecting Indian legal processes and according our diplomats the same immunities and courtesies under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that the US government seeks for its officials posted abroad.


Courtesy: PTI