India’s law enforcement mulls coming to Antigua for accused fraudster

Mehul Choksi, an Indian billionaire businessman, wanted for alleged fraud in India, was granted Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in November 2017.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of India, one of the central agencies investigating the alleged Rs 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank scam, is mulling the idea of sending a team to Antigua and Barbuda for fraud-accused billionaire, Mehul Choksi, who has been living here for about a year.

This is according to a report in India’s Economic Times which noted that the twin Caribbean island nation recently assured the Indian authorities, verbally, that they were willing to expedite the extradition of the investor.

Greater consideration is now being given to the idea in the wake of the issuance of a Red Corner Notice (RCN) by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) against Choksi last month.

In the past, Antigua and Barbuda expressed reservations on sending back its citizen to India, citing the non-issuance of an RCN by the Interpol as the reason.

Choksi became a citizen here about a year ago under the twin island’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).

Shortly after he moved here, India’s authorities accused him of fraud, and the process to extradite him subsequently began.

“In July last year, Antigua and Barbuda expressed reservation stating that the citizenship to Choksi was granted based on a Police Clearance Certificate issued by the Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, and documents received from the Sebi in 2017. However, they assured us to relook at the request once the RCN is issued and now with the RCN in place, they have orally agreed to help the CBI in getting Choksi to justice. A team might be shortly visiting the twin Caribbean island nation,” said a senior official in a report on the online edition of the Economic Times yesterday.

“The purpose of the visit would be to present its case before the appropriate authority and also fight the extradition legally. Last year, we had sent an extradition request under the provision of UN Convention against Corruption to which both Antigua and Barbuda and India are signatory. This will be our starting point. The fact that the country has agreed to bring its citizen to book is a big diplomatic victory,” the official added.

Recently, Choksi’s lawyer in Antigua, Dr. David Dorsett, told OBSERVER media his client is not medically fit to travel to India – a 41-hour flight – due to a serious cardiac problem for which he has been receiving treatment.

At the same time, Choksi has a matter pending in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) in which he is asking the judges to determine the lawfulness of India’s request to extradite him, and he is also questioning the constitutionality of a law that could allow Antigua and Barbuda to extradite him without a hearing.