Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Wednesday said that he has got subsequent information that fugitive billionaire Mehul Choksi is a “crook” and “adds no value to his country”.
Diamantaire Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam took Antiguan citizenship in November 2017 through the Caribbean island nation’s Citizenship by Investment programme. The information about his new citizenship came to light only in July 2018 after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sent a notice to Antiguan authorities regarding Choksi’s criminal status that was sent to all foreign countries via the Interpol.
Antigua Prime Minister further said that Choksi will be extradited to India, saying that it was Indian officials who gave him clearance initially.
“I can assure you that he will be ultimately deported after exhausting all his appeals. He will be extradited back to India to face whatever charges against him. It is just a matter of time,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda told news agency ANI in New York.
PM Browne also said that it was “unforturnate” that Mehul Choksi was cleared by Indian officials as a person in “good standing” only to be told later that he is a “crook”.
“In any case, our officials acted based on the information from India and made him a citizen… the Indian officials have to take the responsibility for that situation,” the Antigua Prime Minister said.
He also stated that Indian officials are free to investigate based on Choksi’s willingness to participate.
Earlier in June, the Antiguan government had reportedly stated that Indian fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi “will be extradited once he has exhausted all of his legal options”.
Following massive pressure from India, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne has reportedly agreed to revoke the citizenship of Choksi who has been in the Caribbean nation since January 2018.
Diamantaire Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, in a bid to avoid extradition to India, had earlier this year, surrendered his passport to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. He also reportedly submitted 177 dollars and gave his new address as Jolly Harbour Marks, Antigua.
India and Antigua do not have a bilateral extradition pact but the government has been trying to bring back the diamond billionaire from Antigua under a law of the island nation that allows it to send back a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth country.
Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are being investigated by the ED and the CBI after it was detected that they allegedly cheated Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,400 crore with the purported involvement of a few of its employees.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the India-CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) leaders’ meeting in New York on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly.
PM Modi said India and the CARICOM, a group of 15 members of the Caribbean Community, will seek to energise their ties as the two sides held their first ever Leaders Meeting.
Modi held talks with 14 leaders of the Caricom group. The meeting was attended by the heads of governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Vice President of Suriname, and Foreign Ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Haiti and Guyana.
PM Modi announced a USD 14 million grant for community development projects in the CARICOM and another USD 150 million Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate change related projects.
The Prime Minister also announced the setting up of the Regional Center for Excellence in Information Technology in Georgetown, Guyana and the Regional Vocational Training Center in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centers in these countries.