Fugitive Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali Gems, who is wanted in India in the Rs 14,000 crore PNB fraud case, is likely to lose his Antiguan citizenship, opening doors for his extradition to India.
According to a local newspaper, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that Choksi's Antigua and Barbuda citizenship will be revoked in short order. “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 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,” the report in Antigua Observer Newspaper quoted PM Browne as saying.
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 added. 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.
Choksi had fled India in January 4, 2018, a couple of weeks before the PNB scam came to the light, after being granted Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in November 2017. He took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15, 2018. In January this year, it was reported that he had given up his Indian citizenship by surrendering his passport to the Antiguan government to avoid extradition.
Upon confirmation of Choksi's residence in Antigua last year, the Modi government had requested authorities in Antigua and Barbuda a number of times to detain him. The government had also moved a request for Choksi's extradition to the Antiguan government.
His nephew, diamantaire Nirav Modi, the prime accused in the PNB scam, had also fled India in January 2018, before being arrested by the London Police from the UK in March and has been in prison ever since. At the time of his arrest, Modi, 48, was living in a three-bedroom flat occupying half of a floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block in London, where rent is estimated to cost 17,000 pounds a month.
Modi was remanded till June 27 by a UK court.