Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that his government will revoke the citizenship of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi and extradite him to India after he has “exhausted all his legal options”, local newspaper The Daily Observer reported on Monday.
“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,” Browne said. “It’s not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes.”
Choksi is accused of defrauding India’s Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,000 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi. In January, he surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua and Barbuda. This came five months after he claimed to have “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean.
Browne said his government will have to allow for due process. “He [Choksi] has a matter before the court and as we said to the Indian government, criminals have fundamental rights, too, and Choksi has a right to go to court and defend his position,” Browne said. “But I can assure you, after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited.”
Browne said the government of Antigua and Barbuda will make it a priority to ensure individuals who benefit from the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme undergo intense scrutiny. Browne said due diligence will be done to ensure that criminals do not use the twin islands as a refuge.
However, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he does not have any information on Antigua and Barbuda revoking Choksi’s citizenship, ANI reported. “I do not have information on the matter, I would not like to comment on it,” he said.
On Monday, the Bombay High Court asked Choksi to submit his medical reports to a hospital in Mumbai for cross-examination to determine if he is in a position to travel. Choksi had cited poor health as a reason for not coming to India from Antigua.