Monday, 30th October 2017

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Antigua open to Mehul Choksi return

Choksi had fled India in January last year along with his nephew and co-accused Nirav Modi

  • Published 26.06.19, 6:26 AM
  • Updated 26.06.19, 6:26 AM
  • 2 mins read
Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi File picture

The citizenship of the fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, wanted in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB fraud case, will be revoked and he will be repatriated to India once he exhausts all his legal options, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne was quoted as saying by a media report.

“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,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by The Daily Observer published from the Caribbean country.

“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.”

Sources in India’s foreign ministry said that although they were in touch with authorities in Antigua and Barbuda over Choksi’s extradition, they did not have any information on the statement made by Antiguan Prime Minister.

Choksi had fled India in January last year along with his nephew and co-accused Nirav Modi. Choksi was granted Antiguan citizenship in November 2017 after extensive vetting and he took the oath of citizenship on January 15, 2018.

The Carribean nation had said that Indian security agencies had not red-flagged against the diamond merchant when it did a background check on the fugitive before granting him citizenship in November 2017. The claim had triggered a controversy but India denied it.

Nirav, a co-accused and fellow diamantaire, is also on the run and is now in prison in the UK.

The Enforcement Directorate had recently told Bombay High Court that it was ready to provide an air ambulance to bring Choksi to India. Choksi’s counsel told the high court that he left India for medical treatment and not to avoid prosecution in the case. He said he would return to India as soon as he is medically fit to travel.

In December last year, the Interpol had issued a red-corner notice (RCN) against Choksi on the request of the CBI after rejecting his claim that the case was political in nature and that’s why he was being persecuted by Indian agencies.

The 59-year-old diamantaire had appealed to the Interpol to not issue an RCN against him as the charges were politically motivated and also cited the poor conditions of jails in India saying staying there would violate his human rights.

An RCN is a request to the 192 member countries “to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition” but it is not binding.

The CBI has filed a chargesheet against Choksi, Modi and others in the case.

Additional reporting by PTI