Khobragade pushes for court date to be postponed by 30 days, Bharara opposes it

No response by Khobragade to plea deal offered, says Bharara.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: A request by Devyani Khobragade’s lawyer to postpone her first mandatory court appearance has been filed with the US government, which would shift her indictment date from January 13 to February 12, 30 days later.

The deadline extension was filed by Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel N. Arshak, at the diplomat’s request. According to the request, the fast-approaching deadline has become counter-productive to talks between the US and India, and Khobragade hopes that the postponement can alleviate some of the pressure on both sides so a more peaceful, diplomatic solution can be arrived at.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the individual mainly responsible for leading the case against Khobragade, has opposed the postponement of Khobragade’s court date, saying that hours of discussions have already taken place and that he was optimistic a plea deal could be reached before January 13 itself.

In court papers submitted Monday night, Bharara also stressed that the US government has offered a plea deal to Khobragade, but she has not responded to it.

The court appearance is when Khobragade is to be formally indicted on her charges of visa fraud and making false statements to the US government regarding the payment of housemaid, Sangeeta Richard, who she brought to her diplomatic residence in New York City from New Delhi. The Department of State would now have until mid-February to decide whether or not it wants to proceed with prosecuting the case, or drop the matter altogether.

The Indian government has been strongly pushing for the latter, making overtures in recent days that it will not go back to the friendly relationship the two countries have enjoyed over the last several years if the Khobragade matter is not dropped and the US does not express remorse. As reported yesterday, India will not return to “business as usual” unless the Khobragade matter is resolved in a way they see fit.

The US has given little indication that it is willing to meet those requests.

Additionally, the US has still not validated the claim put forth by India that Khobragade is a member of India’s Permanent Mission to the UN – which the UN itself has accredited – that would allow the Deputy Consul General full diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution.

Meanwhile, India continues to make small but noticeable changes on the ground in New Delhi to show that it is not being friendly toward US diplomats stationed in the Indian capital.  The Indian government disallowed the screening of movies at the US Embassy and American Center unless proper certifications and licenses to show the movie were presented ahead of time.

India also removed additional security barriers that the US had requested be placed outside its embassy, but did increase the number of guards patrolling the building, and suspended the import of alcoholic goods to the US embassy as early as last month.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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