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US checking Devyani's UN accreditation issue

Washington, Dec 27 (PTI): The US said Friday that it was looking into the matter of Devyani Khobragade's accreditation to the United Nations after India informed it that she was attached to the world body before her arrest in an alleged visa fraud case.

“We have been advised by the Government of India that Dr Khobragade was notified to the United Nations as a member of India's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in September. We are currently looking into the matter,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told PTI.

India's assertion that Khobragade was part of its team to the UN beginning September, sources said, would grant her full diplomatic immunity and thus any arrest would be considered a violation of the Vienna Convention.

With the latest revelation, it has emerged that Khobragade enjoyed full diplomatic immunity including from personal arrest and detention on December 12 when she was taken into custody by the US authorities.

Khobragade, 39, who was posted as Deputy Consul General in New York, was also accredited as an “Advisor to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations” by the UN with effect from 26th August 2013 and her status as an Advisor was valid until December 31, 2013.

The 1999-batch Indian Foreign Service officer was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard.

She was released on a $250,000 bond.

Reports that she was strip searched and held with criminals triggered a row between the two sides with India downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

Meanwhile, leading Indian-American lawyer Ravi Batra said Khobragade can sue the US for arresting her in violation of Vienna Convention as she had the diplomatic immunity in her capacity of being a member of the Indian delegation to the UN.

“If Devyani was in fact a UN-credentialed 'Advisor' to Permanent Mission of India then she had full immunity from arrest and can file a plausible federal case of an unconstitutional false arrest against the US,” Batra told PTI.

“It is a Greek tragedy, at its worst. To say that I am shocked is an understatement,” he said.

“This is an OMG moment - for two friendly nations with a joint and mutually beneficial destiny,” Batra said.