Citing Indian government’s “lack of swiftness” in stopping Mehul Choksi from leaving India, Antiguan PM Gaston Browne hinted in a TV interview that the United States was not informed about Choksi’s involvement in a scam and hence Choksi was not a fugitive when he applied for citizenship in Antigua.
“The reality is Choksi was able to leave India and travel to United States and I am quite sure that if the United States had information about his alleged wrongdoing, they would have cooperated with the Indian government to send him back to India,” Browne told Republic TV.
“Ordinarily what the Government of India should have done was to issue an Interpol Red Notice and an international alert,” Browne said.
‘Didn’t Know He Was a Fugitive’
The Antiguan prime minister also said his government did not have any derogatory information on Choksi at the time of extending his citizenship.
Browne said that Choksi did not face any Interpol notice from the Indian government when he sought an extension of his citizenship in Antigua. “I want to make it abundantly clear that when the gentleman was extended citizenship, there was no Interpol Red notice on him. The Government of India did not file any such notice,” PM Browne said, adding that the Indian government might not have been as quick as it should have been to inform other countries about Choksi’s involvement in a scam.
Browne said that the fugitive jeweller Choksi had applied for an extension in his citizenship like an ordinary person, and upon satisfying the due diligent requirement was provided with an extension.
He added the Antiguan administration was willing to cooperate with the Indian government in locating Choksi. “The Indian government did write to us to find out the whereabouts of Choksi and it was confirmed that he did come to Antigua and Barbuda and that he may still be in the Island. The law enforcement will deal with the matter,” he said.
“We do not have an extradition treaty with India, but whatever we can do, we will stand up to the challenges to cooperate with the Indian government and work to do so,” he told the channel.
Soon after this interview, Mehul Choksi issued a statement through his lawyers where he said that his application to be a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the citizenship program had been lawfully approved.
The Antiguan government indicated that it may consider "a legitimate request" from India to send back Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Nirav Modi and Choksi are being investigated by the ED and the CBI after it was detected that they allegedly cheated the Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,400 crore with purported involvement of a few of the lender's employees.
The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January this year, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies.
Choksi and Nirav Modi fled India in January this year nearly a fortnight before the scam was detected.
Choksi's actions show that he had planned his escape and subsequent life in advance knowing that the scam would blow up after the retirement of PNB employee Gokulnath Shetty, who was allegedly helping him with renewal of letters of undertaking, PTI reported, quoting sources.
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