'No Safe Harbour for Criminals': Fresh Trouble for Mehul Choksi as Antigua to Revoke Citizenship

Antiguan PM Gaston Browne said that Mehul Choksi's citizenship will be revoked and he will be repatriated to India.

New Delhi: In fresh trouble for fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, the Antiguan government on Tuesday decided to revoke his citizenship. Once his citizenship is revoked, Choksi is likely to be extradited to India where he is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Antiguan PM Gaston Browne in a statement said, "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."

Extradition process against the absconding businessman, who is an accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank scam, began in March.

Following the proceedings, the Antiguan Prime Minister on Tuesday said that Choksi has the right to defend his position.

"But I can assure you after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited,” Browne said.

External Affairs of Minister S Jaishankar refrained from reacting saying that he is yet to receive full information on the development.

Government sources said that India can start the extradition process after Choksi's citizenship is revoked, news agency ANI said. For now, India is said to be engaging with Antigua on the matter.

In January, last year, Choksi absconded after the Rs 14,000-crore PNB fraud came to light, whereby the primary accused were diamantaires Nirav Modi and Choksi himself. Following this, he surrendered his Indian passport and took up Antiguan citizenship.

Then in August last year, India put in a request for his extradition following which the businessman submitted a plea in the Bombay High Court through his lawyer claiming that he had left India in January to undergo bypass surgery and not to avoid prosecution.

In an affidavit filed in the HC, he said he would return to India if he is medically fit.

Meanwhile, the second accused in the case - Nirav Modi - is also fighting extradition from Britain. Earlier this month, on Wednesday 12, the UK High court rejected Modi's fourth bail application citing "substantial grounds" to believe that the diamantaire would fail to surrender as he possesses the means to "abscond".