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US re-indicts Indian diplomat Khobragade

Former deputy consul general, now back in India, re-accused of visa fraud and exploitation of her maid in ongoing saga.

Last updated: 15 Mar 2014 09:30
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Khobragade is accused of exploiting her Indian-born housekeeper, making her work for just over $1 an hour [AP]

An Indian diplomat has been re-indicted on US visa fraud charges that touched off an international stir after she was arrested and strip-searched in New York last year.

The new indictment, essentially reinstating the charges against Devyani Khobragade, was filed on Friday.

On Wednesday, a judge dismissed the previous indictment for diplomatic immunity reasons but left a door open to federal prosecutors to revive the case.

Khobragade is back in India and it is unclear when, if ever, the former deputy consul general might appear in court in New York again.

India's government on Saturday said it was "disappointed" by new charges.

The government's spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, told the AFP news agency that India was "disappointed... the United States Department of Justice chose to obtain a second indictment" against Khobragade.

Prosecutors say she fraudulently obtained a work visa for her housekeeper and lied to the government about what she paid her.

They accused her of forcing Sangeeta Richard to work 100-hour weeks at a salary of just over $1 an hour, far below the legal minimum US wage of $7.25 an hour.

Her lawyer said she is immune from the prosecution.

A State Department spokeswoman said earlier this week that the agency's position was that Khobragade had full immunity from prosecution only for a single day in January and no longer enjoyed protection from prosecution once she left the country.

The dispute over Khobragade's arrest set off reprisals against US diplomats and the removal of some security barriers near the US embassy in India.

It also led to the postponement of trips by US officials and business executives to India, imperiling US efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

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