THREE DAYS before India notified a special extradition arrangement with Antigua and Barbuda to bring fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi back to India, the Caribbean country had refused to extradite him. It told the Indian high commissioner in Antigua that it would not even stop Choksi from leaving the country.
In a letter to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and CBI Director Alok Verma on July 31, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne took this stand during a meeting with the Indian high commissioner there. The attorney general and solicitor general of Antigua were also present at the meeting.
According to the letter, India raised three demands: revoke Choksi’s Antiguan passport, detain him immediately, and either deport him to India or begin extradition proceedings. Browne did not agree to any of these demands. He said Choksi’s passport could not be revoked as he had acquired it legally, without any false representation, and nothing illegal was found against him while his application for Antiguan citizenship was pending, says the letter.
Browne, according to the letter, also said that Choksi could not be extradited since there was no extradition treaty between Indian and Antigua, nor was there any arrangement between the two countries under the aegis of the Commonwealth. He further said that Antigua would not be in position to even detain Choksi or stop him from visiting any other country, unless India was able to get a ‘red notice’ issued against him through the Interpol. An Antiguan passport allows Choksi visa-free travel to over 130 countries.
India’s application for a ‘red notice’ against Choksi is still pending with the Interpol.
Sources said it was after this setback that the Ministry of External Affairs hurriedly notified, on August 3, a special extradition arrangement with Antigua and Barbuda under the Commonwealth.
As per the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1993 of Antigua and Barbuda, a fugitive may be extradited to a designated Commonwealth country or a state with which there are general or special arrangements or a bilateral treaty. The government of Antigua and Barbuda notified India as a designated Commonwealth country in 2001. However, no special extradition arrangement existed between the two countries. This was recently negotiated between the two countries.
The gazette notification, dated August 3 2018, directs that the provisions of Extradition Act, 1962 shall apply with respect to Antigua and Barbuda with effect from 2001 — when Antigua and Barbuda notified India as a designated Commonwealth country under the provision of its own Extradition Act.