Choksi, one of the alleged masterminds of the over Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case and an uncle of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, took citizenship of the Caribbean country last year.
Sources confirmed the development on Monday, but added that the Indian government is pursuing the case for Choksi’s extradition. “India continues to pursue Choksi’s return with the government of Antigua through diplomatic and legal channels,” a source said.
According to sources, Indian citizens are expected to surrender their passports when they acquire a foreign nationality.
Extradition now depends on India’s diplomatic clout
The formal surrender of Mehul Choksi’s passport was expected — India does not permit dual citizenship, and the fugitive jeweller’s taking up citizenship of the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda in November 2017 implied that he would lose his Indian citizenship. That Choksi is no longer an Indian citizen adds a layer of complication to the efforts to get him back to face trial in the Rs 13,500-crore PNB scam. That said, India has been able to obtain the extradition of several foreigners accused of crimes in India in the past, the latest being Christian Michel. The key factor in such cases remains India’s diplomatic clout with the country concerned, and New Delhi’s ability to obtain its help in bringing a fugitive to justice.
Choksi is wanted in India by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, which are probing the PNB fraud case. In August 2018, India gave Antigua a request for Choksi’s extradition. A team from India was also sent to Antigua to pursue the request.
Experts believe Choksi’s surrendering his Indian passport is unlikely to impact the legal proceedings currently underway in Indian courts against him. In 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs had revoked the passports of Choksi and Nirav Modi, who is also an accused in the fraud case.
Choksi recently claimed that he had proposed to settle the amount that is due to PNB. He denied that he left the country with an intention to defraud the bank. The diamantaire also claimed that his case was “completely different” from that of his nephew.
In December last year, Choksi had told the ED that he can’t make a 41-hour trip to India due to bad health. Choksi had submitted in a Mumbai court that he wanted to join the investigation through video conferencing.
BJP responsible for rise in bank frauds: Congress
Meanwhile, the Congress on Monday accused the BJP government of a spike in bank frauds. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said reports about Choksi having surrendered his passport flies in the face of the Narendra Modi government’s assertions that he would be brought back to India. “We want to juxtapose that with the earlier and the recent statements, not once but innumerable times, by the Prime Minister and his colleagues about getting him back in X days and Y days. This is hypocrisy and misleading the people of the country,” said Singhvi. “In 2017-18, bank frauds have increased by 72 per cent… The total debt of India has risen by 50 per cent — from 54 lakh crores to 82 lakh crores. This is the reality versus Modiji’s jumlebaazi.”