Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne Tuesday said that the citizenship of diamantaire Mehul Choksi will be revoked soon and he will be repatriated to India. Choksi is a key accused in the Rs 13,400 crore-Punjab National Bank (PNB) bank scam and is currently based in the Caribbean nation of Antigua.
Choksi, promoter of Gitanjali Gems, and his nephew Nirav Modi, who is currently in a London jail, are wanted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI for allegedly masterminding the biggest banking fraud of India.
“His citizenship was processed; he got through but the reality is his citizenship will be revoked and he will be repatriated to India; so there is recourse. It’s not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes,” Antigua Observer reported, quoting a statement by Prime Minister Browne.
Browne also said, “We have to allow for due process. He has a matter before the court and as we said to the Indian Government, criminals have fundamental rights, too, and Choksi has a right to go to court and defend his position. But I can assure you, after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited.”
Clarifying that the government of Antigua and Barbuda has made it a priority to ensure that individuals who will benefit from the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) undergo intense scrutiny, Browne said that there are a few who may circumvent the process, so the recourse is available.
Under the CIP, a person can take Antigua Barbuda passport on a minimum investment of USD 100,000 in the NDF investment fund in that country.
To remedy the ongoing problem of criminals attempting to sidestep the CIP and use the twin-island as a place of refuge, Browne said that further measures and due diligence will be implemented going forward, according to Antigua Observer.
Sources in New Delhi said, “We continue to remain engaged with the Antigua and Barbuda authorities over the issue of Choksi’s extradition.”
The CBI has managed to get a Red Corner Notice against Modi but its application to get a similar notice from Interpol against Choksi has met a deadlock at the Lyon-based international police cooperation group. The ED recently told the Bombay High Court that it was ready to provide an air ambulance to bring Choksi to India.
On Monday, the Bombay High court had asked Choksi to send his medical papers and reports to JJ Hospital, so that it can analyse them and submit a report to the court stating whether he is fit to travel to India. In April, Choksi had approached the court claiming that he had not deliberately avoided joining the investigation against him in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) alleged fraud case, but was unable to return because of his medical condition.