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US prosecutors re-indict Devyani Khobragade

Washington, March 15 (IANS) Two days after a New York judge dismissed the visa fraud case against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, a US grand jury Friday again indicted her on same criminal charges.

“A grand jury has returned a true bill today on a two-count criminal indictment of Devyani Khobragade, said the office of US prosecutor Preet Bharara in an announcement Friday.

Bharara’s office had charged the Indian diplomat with visa fraud and making false statements in connection with the employment of her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard.

Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, did not immediately comment on the new indictment, which effectively returns the case to where it was before Wednesday’s dismissal.

Khobragade, whose Dec 12 arrest and strip search on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper had set off an India-US diplomatic row, returned to India Jan 9 after India refused to waive her then newly-acquired diplomatic immunity.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Wednesday that Khobragade, India’s former deputy consul-general in New York, had diplomatic immunity in her new job at the UN on Jan 9 and could not be prosecuted.

A spokesperson for Bharara’s office, however, said that the ruling did not bar prosecutors from seeking a new indictment based on the same charges, now that she has left the country and no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity.

A State Department spokesperson said earlier this week that Khobragade had full immunity from prosecution only for a single day in January.

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