NEW YORK : An Indian diplomat in New York, arrested for visa fraud that sent US-India relations into tailspin, has asked for an extension of the filing of indictment due to ongoing talks with the prosecution.
Daniel Arshack, lawyer for Devyani Khobragade, 39, in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Sarah Netburn asked the Jan. 13 deadline for the prosecution to file the indictment against Khobragade be extended to Feb. 12, according to media reports. The diplomat was arrested in New York Dec. 12 and is free on $250,000 bail. She was handcuffed and strip-searched.
“Significant communications have been had between the prosecution and the defense and amongst other government officials and it is our strong view that the pressure of the impending deadline is counterproductive to continued communications,” Arshack said in the request.
The filing came after Indian authorities reportedly said they had unearthed cases of tax and other legal violations by U.S. Embassy staff members in New Delhi that they are prepared to make public and act upon if Khobragade’s case is not resolved to India’s satisfaction. Indian officials declined to characterize their plans as a threat. But “it could all come out in the open like a can of worms,” one senior official, who was not authorized to speak openly to the news media on the matter, was quoted as saying.
“What we have is a wide array of issues that are under the scanner. Each aspect will be proceeded on with due care, if we have to,” the official said. Among the alleged irregularities, the senior official mentioned the sale by U.S. diplomats of duty-free alcohol and other goods to those who are not legally entitled to them and the employment of diplomatic spouses without the necessary papers or tax filings.
The visa fraud case concerning Khobragade’s housekeeper and the circumstances surrounding the diplomat’s arrest have stirred strong reactions in India and resulted in retaliatory steps. On Friday, India asked the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to stop screening movies at the American Center there unless the proper licenses and certificates from Indian censors are obtained.