Deporting Mehul Choksi to India directly may not be easy

New Delhi: Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who was captured in Dominica after going missing for three days “needs to return to India” where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him.

While Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Agarwal says that the moment the businessman, who is also the chairman of the Gitanjali group, acquired the citizenship of Antigua he ceased to be a citizen of India and hence legally as per Immigration and Passport Act Section 17 and 23, he can only be deported to Antigua.

Antigua News Room, a media outlet, quoted Browne as telling journalists in Antigua and Barbuda: “We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him.”

The Antigua Observor also said that Browne has reportedly told the media in India that he has asked Dominican government to detain Choksi for entering their country illegally. “Browne has asked that officials in Dominica make Choksi persona non grata and have him deported directly to India,” the Antigua Observor reported.

Choksi, who is wanted by the CBI and the ED in connection with the over Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case, has reportedly been taken into custody in Dominica on Wednesday.

Choksi was reported missing on Sunday from Antigua and Barbuda, where he had taken citizenship, sparking a manhunt for the fugitive businessman.

The Antigua Observer also reported that Choksi is in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Dominica.

Choksi is fighting two cases in Antigua, according to the CBI, related to his citizenship and his extradition to India. He had fled India after taking citizenship in 2017 in Antigua, where wealthy foreigners can become citizens in exchange for investing there.

Agarwal said, “As per Indian Citizenship Act Section 9, the moment Choksi acquired the citizenship of Antigua he ceased to be a citizen of India. Hence legally he can be deported only to Antigua.”

Agarwal said that “moreover as there is Antiguan High Court order restraining processing any request from India so my understanding is that he has to be sent back to Antigua only and there is no question of him being sent to India”.

Choksi, an accused in the over Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case along with his nephew Nirav Modi, has been residing in Antigua and Berbuda since January 4, 2018.

The CBI and ED, which have filed separate chargesheets in the case, are trying for the extradition of Choksi.

Image courtesy of (File photo)

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