Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, who had fled Antigua and Barbuda, was held in neighbouring Caribbean country Dominica on late Wednesday night (Indian time) and is in custody of the country’s investigation agencies, ANI reported quoting local media.
Following his arrest, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he has asked the Dominican government to have Choksi repatriated to India. Indian authorities have not yet given an official statement on the matter.
The 62-year-old, who had been staying in Antigua and Barbuda since 2018, is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the over Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case.
On Tuesday, Antigua and Barbuda’s Royal Police Force had said that Choksi was missing. However, soon after, Browne had said he had “no reliable information” on the development.
The police in Dominica captured Choksi after an Interpol Yellow Notice was issued by Antigua and Barbuda. He was trying to flee to Cuba and efforts were on to hand him over to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, PTI reported, quoting local media.
However, Browne said that Antigua will not accept Choksi back.
“He [Choksi] made a monumental error by skipping island,” the Antiguan prime minister said, speaking to ANI. “Dominican government and law enforcement are cooperating and we have informed Indian government to have him repatriated to India.”
The Antiguan government has said on several occasions earlier that it is ready to extradite Choksi to India for which the process is already going on. His extradition case as well as revocation of citizenship by Antigua is currently being pursued in a court in the Caribbean country, which Choksi has challenged.
Meanwhile, the jeweller’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said that Choksi’s family was happy to know about his whereabouts, ANI reported. “Efforts are being made to speak to him so that one can know the clearer picture of how he was taken to Dominica,” Aggarwal said.
In August 2018, he claimed he had “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean. In January 2019, Choksi had surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Punjab National Bank fraud came to light in February 2018 when the bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it had detected “fraudulent and unauthorised transactions” worth Rs 11,380 crore at a branch in South Mumbai. A few officials of the public sector bank had allegedly issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking to his nephew Nirav Modi’s companies. The bank later raised its estimate of the value of the fraud to over Rs 13,000 crore.
Last month, United Kingdom’s Home Minister Priti Patel had approved the extradition of Modi to India, where he will face trial. He was arrested on March 19, 2019, and has been lodged in London’s Wandsworth jail