Antigua PM Awaits Mehul Chowksi’s ‘Legal Options’ To End

Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Chowksi’s citizenship will be cancelled and he will be sent after all his legal options come to and end in Antigua, said Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Brownec according to a report in Antigua’s The Daily Observer newspaper.

The Caribbean twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda had granted Mehul Choksi its citizenship in November 2017 under its controversial Citizenship Investment Program that lets the world’s rich pick a second passport.

Antiguan newspaper quoted PM Gaston Browne as saying, “His (Choksi’s) 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.”

Indian government has refused to comment since it doesn’t have any official information on the matter. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “I do not have information on the matter, I would not like to comment on it,” reacting on the reports.

Government sources, quoted by a news agency, explain India’s cautious approach, “MEA is yet to hear officially from Antiguan government about revoking of citizenship. India is waiting for Antigua’s internal process of revoking citizenship. Only after that extradition process can start separately. India continues to engage with Antigua.”

Choksi became a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under a programme in which a certain quantum of investment entitles an individual to citizenship.

Antigua had promised to “honour any legitimate request” for extradition soon after it learnt about the fraud case against Choksi.

The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday directed Mehul Choksi’s counsel to submit his medical papers by July 1 to ascertain whether Choksi can safely travel to India. The court has asked Sir JJ Hospital to submit a report by July 9 stating if Choksi can be brought to India using a special air ambulance.

Choksi had earlier told the court that he was not running away from the law but was constrained by his medical condition preventing his return to India. He had claimed that he left India in January 2018 to undergo a bypass surgery and not to avoid prosecution.

Mehul Choksi is one of the primary accused in the Rs 13,500 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank.