Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi has said that he “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda because he wanted to expand business interests in the Caribbean region. In a statement dated Thursday, he also said he wanted to obtain visa-free travel to over 130 countries, which an Antiguan passport allows one to do.
“In January I had the need to visit the United States to receive medical treatment,” the statement claimed. “Having received treatment I am still in a state [of] convalescence. That being the case I have decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda, the country of my citizenship, and to abide by the laws of the country, as is the duty of every citizen.”
On Tuesday, reports in the Indian media had said that the Interpol’s office in Antigua and Barbuda informed the Enforcement Directorate about Choksi’s presence in the Caribbean country. Choksi got the Antiguan citizenship in November, months before he was accused of involvement in the Punjab National Bank loan fraud.
Antiguan authorities had told local newspaper Daily Observer on Tuesday that Choksi was granted citizenship after “robust due diligence” and “international investigation” which revealed no derogatory information about him.
Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne told CNN-News18 that the Indian government had not written to it over the matter. “Neither the Enforcement Directorate nor the Central Bureau of Investigation has written to us. We cannot revoke Choksi’s passport,” said Browne.
An Opposition leader in Antigua and Barbuda has criticised Browne for his silence over the scandal, while another demanded a thorough external investigation into the operations of the Citizenship by Investment Unit, reported the Daily Observer.
Choksi fled India in January, weeks before the country’s biggest banking fraud came to light. He and his nephew Nirav Modi are accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore.
In March, a special court issued non-bailable warrants against Choksi after the Enforcement Directorate filed a chargesheet against him. Earlier this month, the agency moved the court seeking to confiscate the attached assets of Choksi and Modi, and declare the two as fugitives under a new ordinance.