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By Machela Osagboro

Prime Minister Gaston Browne remains adamant that Indian banker and fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi must leave Antigua – claiming he is ruining the image of the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).

Browne’s comments come ahead of next month’s court case to determine whether or not the alleged con artist will be stripped of his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship which he attained via the scheme.

“We have said to Mehul Choksi, leave voluntarily, failing which he will be legally expatriated or repatriated to India,” the PM told Parliament on Thursday.

“We have said to him you have to leave when we have exhausted all the legal actions that will make sure that he is actually repatriated from whence he came.”

Choksi is wanted by Indian authorities on charges including criminal conspiracy, corruption and money laundering in relation to a US$2 billion bank fraud.

“The quality and integrity of our CIP is far too valuable to our economy, and the well-being of our people, to do anything but uphold and implement the highest possible standards,” Browne continued.

“We are very serious about good governance, especially when it comes to the abuse of public resources.”

During Thursday’s budget presentation, the PM revealed that the CIP programme added $98.9 million to public coffers in 2019. That was a significant jump on 2018’s CIP revenue of $59.7 million.

Choksi’s lawyer David Dorsett refused to comment.

“I am not making any comments on what the Prime Minister has said; you will know in due course the outcome of the court proceedings. I am not making any comments at all,” he told OBSERVER media.

Last year Choksi filed an appeal against the ruling of a High Court judge in Antigua after he was denied permission to bring in an expert to challenge the validity of an extradition request from India.