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Indian Diplomat Khobragade’s Immunity Bid Opposed by U.S.

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Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The Indian diplomat whose arrest in New York roiled relations between the two countries isn’t immune from prosecution and should face charges of visa fraud and making false statements, U.S. prosecutors said.

Devyani Khobragade was arrested Dec. 12 in front of her daughter’s school and held by the U.S. Marshals Service in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, where she was strip-searched and put with other female suspects. She was charged in an indictment with lying on a visa application about her plan to pay her Indian babysitter less than minimum wage.

News of Khobragade’s treatment triggered a furor in India, and was followed by the scaling back of security outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and protests demanding a ban on U.S. goods.

Khobragade returned to India on Jan. 9, the same day she was indicted. In court filings she has claimed diplomatic immunity and asked a judge to dismiss the charges.

“Having left the United States and returned to India,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office said yesterday in a court filing opposing Khobragade’s request, “the defendant currently has no diplomatic or consular status in the United States, and the consular level immunity that she did have at the relevant time does not give her immunity for the charges in this case, crimes arising out of non-official acts.”

Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said in an e-mail that the legal issues will be resolved by the court.

“The United States Attorney’s Office is again wrong on the facts and on the law,” Arshack said.

Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, didn’t immediately respond to a call on his mobile phone or a text message seeking comment.

The case is U.S. v. Khobragade, 14-cr-0008, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net