Preet Bharara makes mistake, creates confusion over Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade

Jan 10 2014, 20:37 IST
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SummaryPreet Bharara mistake in Devyani Khobragade row left US embarrassed.

Confusion broke out over Devyani Khobragade's whereabouts when Manhattan's top prosecutor Preet Bharara informed a court here that she had "departed" from the US after being indicted on visa fraud charges but the Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was still in the country at that time.

A grand jury voted on and returned the indictment yesterday afternoon charging Devyani Khobragade in two counts with visa fraud and making false statements.

In a letter accompanying the indictment, Preet Bharara wrote to US District Judge Southern District of New York, Shira Scheindlin, that it is his understanding that Devyani Khobragade has been accorded diplomatic immunity status and has left the country.

"We understand that the defendant was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status and that she departed the United States today," Preet Bharara said.

However, Devyani Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack said that she was still in the US on Thursday afternoon. Devyani Khobragade also confirmed she was still in the US. She took a plane back to India Thursday night.

Preet Bharara's office later issued a clarification saying Devyani Khobragade was still in the US and it had been "advised" by the State Department that Devyani Khobragade was to have left the United States "this afternoon".

"This Office had been advised by the State Department that, pursuant to their request, Devyani Khobragade was to have left the United States this afternoon. In a letter sent to the Court upon the filing of the Indictment of Devyani Khobragade, we stated our understanding that she had left the country.

"Subsequent to the filing of the letter, Devyani Khobragade's lawyer advised that she has not, in fact, departed the US," the clarification by United States Attorney's Office Chief Public Information Officer James Margolin said.

Devyani Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack slammed Bharara for the "false statement this afternoon" about Devyani Khobragade's whereabouts and demanded an apology.

He said Bharara's goof up about Devyani Khobragade leaving the country is "emblematic of the series of blunders which has contributed to the false charges brought against her".

"The truth is, and the prosecutor's office well knows it, that Dr Khobragade was in the country when Preet Bharara falsely claimed otherwise. Why would they make that up? Where is the apology? This was just another in a string of mistakes," Arshack said.

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