Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Wednesday said his government had granted fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi citizenship based on information from India, ANI reported. Choksi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi. He had fled to Antigua and Barbuda in January 2018, a few weeks before the scam came to light.
Browne said that it was “unfortunate” that the businessman was initially cleared by officials in India as a person in “good standing”, but he was later informed that he is a “crook”. “The Indian officials have to take the responsibility for that situation,” Browne told ANI in New York. “I can assure you that he will be ultimately deported after exhausting all his appeals. He will be extradited back to India to face whatever charges against him. It is just a matter of time.”
Like many tax havens in the Caribbean, Antigua does not have an extradition treaty with India, reported NDTV.
Browne said the matter was before the judiciary. “He [Choksi] has several appeals, and until he exhausts his appeals there is nothing we can do,” he told DD News. The prime minister also added that the fugitive businessman added no value to his country. “They [Indian officials] can come and if they wish to interview Choksi based on his willingness to participate, it has nothing to do with my government,” he added.
Browne had made a similar statement in June. He had then said that his government will have to allow for due process.
In January, Choksi had 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 the Caribbean nation to expand his business interests.
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