India diplomat indicted, asked to leave US

Ms Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul-general, attends the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser event in Long Island, New York, on Dec 8, 2013. Ms Khobragade, whose arrest and strip-searching in New York caused a major rift between
Ms Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul-general, attends the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser event in Long Island, New York, on Dec 8, 2013. Ms Khobragade, whose arrest and strip-searching in New York caused a major rift between India and the United States (US), was indicted for visa fraud on Jan 9, 2014, and the US government immediately asked her to leave the country. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip-searching in New York caused a major rift between India and the United States will leave the country on Thursday night after the US State Department requested her immediate departure, her defence lawyer said.

Devyani Khobragade was charged with visa fraud and accused of filing false information to the US authorities to get a work visa for her Indian helper. She was indicted by a US grand jury on two felony counts that carry a maximum prison term of 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Washington accredited the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, at the United Nations, giving her immunity from criminal prosecution, and asked her to leave the country after Indiarefused to waive her immunity.

“As a result of her diplomatic status having been recognized, the federal court today recognised Dr Khobragade’s right to travel and she is pleased to be returning to her country,” said her defence lawyer, Daniel Arshack, in a statement.

“She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known.”

Ms Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested Dec 12 and charged with one count of visa fraud and another of making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper.

Her arrest set off protests in India amid disclosures that she was strip searched on the day of her arrest.

The arresting authority, the US Marshals Service, characterised the strip search as a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee.

In a letter accompanying her indictment on Thursday, the prosecutor in the case, US Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, initially said Ms Khobragade had left the country.

Shortly afterwards, a spokesman for Mr Bharara said in a statement that she had not left.

"Subsequent to the filing of the letter, Ms Khobragade's lawyer advised that she has not, in fact, departed the US," a the statement read.

A lawyer for Ms Khobragade confirmed that she had not left.

"Despite Preet Bharara's reports to the contrary, Devyani Khobragade has not left the country," Mr Daniel Arshack, her lawyer, said in a statement. "She is at home with her children."

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