NEW YORK: In a major diplomatic embarrassment for India, its Deputy Consul General here was arrested and handcuffed in public on visa fraud charges before being released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.
Bharara alleged that Khobragade made false statements in a visa application for an Indian national employed as a babysitter and housekeeper at her home in New York.
While Khobragade is Deputy Consul General at the Consulate here, she was serving as its acting head at the time of her arrest.
She was charged with one count each of visa fraud and making false statements, which carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years and five years, respectively.
The Indian Embassy in Washington said in a statement that it had “immediately conveyed its strong concern” to the US government over the action against Khobragade.
“The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account…the diplomatic status of the officer concerned,” the Embassy said.
Khobragade, the mother of two young daughters and a Chevening scholar, was taken into custody by law enforcement officials and produced before US Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman of Manhattan federal court late in the afternoon for an arraignment hearing.
Wearing a purple sweater and dress, Khobragade looked pale and stressed during the hearing. The judge read Khobragade her rights and the charges against her.
She did not speak during the hearing except to say that she agrees with the terms and conditions of her bail. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond and submitted her diplomatic passport in court.
The next hearing was set for January 13.
Khobragade told PTI she cannot talk to the media as the matter is “subjudice” but said she is doing fine. She was flanked by her attorney Daniel Arshack and her colleagues from the Consulate who escorted her from the court.
Khobragade joined the Consulate last year and was previously posted in Germany, Italy and Pakistan.
The arrest sent shock waves among the Indian diplomatic corps here, with some officers saying it was unprecedented and inappropriate for a diplomat to be arrested.–PTI