Police searching for Indian fugitive Mehul Choksi

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by Leon Norville

[email protected]

Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney told Observer yesterday the force was “following up” on reports that Indian-born businessman Mehul Choksi had gone missing from Antigua and Barbuda.

An official statement issued last night confirmed a missing person’s report had been filed for him on Sunday at Johnson’s Point Police Station.

The 62-year-old was reportedly last seen on Sunday at around 5pm by his neighbours in the Jolly Harbour community. They confirmed that on Monday morning police officers were spotted in the area where Choksi’s vehicle was found, processing the scene.

“Based on additional information received, the police have conducted numerous searches but to no avail,” the statement said.

Police are urging anyone with information to come forward.

Choksi, who obtained his citizenship for Antigua and Barbuda via the country’s citizenship by investment scheme, is wanted by the Indian judicial authorities regarding a US$2 billion bank scam involving India’s Punjab National Bank (PNB).

The diamantaire and his company allegedly bypassed PNB’S core banking system and issued fraudulent letters of understanding (LoUs) for payments to suppliers without making entries in the banking software about the LoUs.

The billionaire, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is charged with criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty including delivery of property, corruption, and money laundering.

Choksi has however been fighting extradition back to India. Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene told Observer previously that he had informed India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Antigua and Barbuda government will continue to cooperate with India as the Asian country pursues Choksi’s extradition.

Earlier this year, in keeping with that pledge, Antigua and Barbuda initiated the process of revoking Choksi’s citizenship which was granted in November 2017, but Choksi challenged the government’s move in court.

Lionel Hurst, chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s office, speaking to news channel India Today earlier this year, warned that the process to strip Choksi of his citizenship would take time to be completed.

“This matter will take about seven years to be resolved. With enough money to pursue these legal challenges, 2027 is the earliest for a final resolution,” Hurst said. Choksi can move to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council in London if he loses in the High Court, he added.

In the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries, India sought Choksi’s extradition in August 2018 on the principle of reciprocity and dual criminality, but it is pending due to the legal issues.

The principle of dual criminality requires that the offence for which the extradition is sought has to be an offence in both the requesting and requested countries.

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