Antigua and Barbuda prefers repatriation of Choksi from Dominica to India directly: Local media

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New Delhi, Jun 3 (PTI) Antigua and Barbuda prefer that fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi be repatriated from Dominica to India directly, the Cabinet of the Caribbean island country decided in a meeting, local media reported. The Cabinet minutes published by local media show that 'Choksi matter' was one of the agenda items discussed during the meeting on Wednesday where it was held that the business is now 'problem' of Dominica and if he comes back to Antigua and Barbuda 'problem reverts' to it.

The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and attended by all his ministers decided that law enforcement officials will continue to gather intelligence in the circumstances of Choksi's 'departure' from Antigua, a media outlet Antigua Breaking News said. 'The preference of the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda is for Choksi to be repatriated to India from Dominica,' the Cabinet minutes said.

Later, speaking to media Information Minister Melford Nicholas said intelligence agencies briefed the Cabinet on the circumstances leading to Choksi's disappearance from Antigua and Barbuda but refused to say anything further calling the information classified. When asked about the mystery woman allegedly involved in the disappearance, he said he cannot speculate on the matter.

Choksi had mysteriously gone missing on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda where he has been staying since 2018 as a citizen.

He was detained in neighbouring island country Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade with his rumoured girlfriend.

His lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.

A Dominica High Court is hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Choksi challenging his illegal detention.

He was also brought before a Roseau magistrate, on the orders of High Court, to answer charges of illegal entry where he pleaded not guilty but was denied bail.

Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had fled India in the first week of January, 2018 weeks before Rs 13,500 crore scam in Punjab National Bank rocked Indian banking industry.

The duo allegedly bribed the officials of state run bank to get Letters of Undertaking on the basis of which they availed from overseas banks which remained unpaid.

The allegedly corrupt officials did not enter these LoUs in the core banking software of PNB thus evading any scrutiny. The non payment of these LoUs or bank guarantees worth Rs 13,500 crore resulted in default and became a liability on bank.

Modi escaped to Europe and was finally held in London where he is contesting his extradition to India while Choksi took citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in 2017 where he had been staying since his escape from Delhi. PTI ABS SMN SMN

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