Antigua PM says Choksi to be extradited after court nod
Fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi's citizenship of Antigua is likely to be revoked paving the way for his extradition to India after he exhausts all legal options available to him, the Caribbean nation's Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, said in a media interview.
According to sources, the diplomatic pressure mounted by India on the issue has played a crucial role in the Caribbean nation accepting the fact that he has to be deported. The Prime Minister of Antigua has said it is not a case that "we are trying to provide any safe harbour to criminals and those who are involved in financial crimes".
He has also said that once Mehul Choksi has exhausted all his legal options, he will be extradited to India. "Choksi's citizenship was processed, he got through. We do have recourse, the reality is that his citizenship will be revoked and he will be deported to India," the PM has said.
"Presently the matter is before the court, so we have to allow for due process. We have conveyed to the Indian government that criminals also have fundamental rights and Choksi has a right to go to court to defend his position. But I can assure you, after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited," said the Antiguan Prime Minister.
Vijay Agarwal, lawyer of Mehul Choksi told India Today that, "there is a process involved in extradition from Antigua. We have challenged vires of Antiguan extradition law in Antigua. Even after that it being common law country , the process would be governed by principles of natural justice."
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are the two key accused wanted by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation for allegedly defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs 13,400 crore in collusion with a few employees of the government-run lender.
The multi-crore fraud came to light in early 2018. Both Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi had fled the country before that. Recently, Mehul Choksi told the Bombay High Court that he left India for a medical check-up and not to avoid prosecution in the case.
Choksi, currently based in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, filed an affidavit on Monday through his advocate Vijay Agarwal, stating he had left the country in January 2018 for getting a medical check-up and treatment abroad.
ED had told the Bombay High Court that it was ready to provide an air ambulance to bring Mehul Choksi for trial. Choksi, 60, had taken nationality of Antigua and Barbuda in November, 2017 using Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) of the twin island nation.
He fled India in the first week of January last year, days before the biggest banking fraud of India was detected. Under the CIP, a person can take Antigua Barbuda passport on a minimum investment of USD 100,000 in the NDF investment fund in the Caribbean nation.