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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

US mission can’t sell duty-free alcohol to embassies

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 17, 2014
First Published: 02:04 IST(17/2/2014) | Last Updated: 08:10 IST(17/2/2014)

New Delhi has told around 39 embassies and international organisations in the Capital to stop depending on the American Community Support Association (ACSA) club, on US embassy premises, for their duty-free import of alcohol, cigarettes and food items.
 
This is a strict step to stop ACSA’s “commercial activities and misuse of diplomatic privileges”, which came under New Delhi’s scanner as a result of the fallout after the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges in New York.

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An MEA note verbale to the US embassy read: “…Due to administrative reasons, government of India has decided that all other missions and international organisations who are presently members of the ACSA shall with effect from January draw their alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and food items individually and directly with the due approval of the protocol section of the MEA”.
 
Sources familiar with the matter said the order would impact 39 organisations and embassies.

The note also requested the US embassy to “indent/buy alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and food items only for its diplomats working in its embassy… and not on behalf of any other mission/international organisation.”

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The US embassy in New Delhi didn’t respond to HT’s query on the issue. New Delhi has reasoned that the major reason why ACSA can indulge in commercial activities is due to surplus of imported articles that its members wouldn’t need or pick up. “This amounts to a clear misuse of diplomatic privileges,” said sources. 

ACSA members are allowed a bottle of hard liquor, two bottles of wine and 12 cans of beer a week at a much lower price than the market rate as these are duty free.
Members also get access to several exclusive restaurants and free access to a gymnasium, swimming pool, bowling alley and a tennis court.

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