The Indian authorities are closing in on fugitive Mehul Choksi, who has been on the run from the law enforcement authorities. In a major development on Sunday (May 30), journalist Aditya Raj Kaul shared a video on Twitter wherein the Prime Minister of Antigua Gaston Browne conceded that the Indian government has sent a jet to Dominica to prove that Mehul Choksi is a fugitive before the court.
“Yes, I can confirm that there is a jet. My understanding is that the Indian government has sent certain documentation from the courts in India to confirm that Mr Choksi is a fugitive. My understanding is that it will be used before the court on next Wednesday. As you know, the judge in Dominica has actually put a stay on his deportation until the hearing on next Wednesday. So, the Indian government is going all out to ensure that he is repatriated to India and can stand trial there,” Gaston Browne emphasised.
#BREAKING: Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne in an interview with a local radio station confirms that Indian Government has sent a jet to Dominica with court documents which prove that Mehul Choksi is a fugitive and these documents will be shown in Dominica court on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/mNj8hcZUg9— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) May 30, 2021
After being criticised by the Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) for deserting an Antiguan citizen, PM Gaston Browne hit back at his detractors. In a statement, he said, “These loafers, laggards, and charlatans (LLC’s), are scavenging for issues, and yet again, failed to prioritize the national interest over their parochial political interests. After mischievously accusing my administration of habouring Mehul Choksi, who has an Interpol Red Notice, they are now seeking to sanitize this fugitive to get campaign funding. My administration’s revocation of Choksi’s citizenship has been frustrated by a litigation brought against the state.”
Browne further added, “We are determined to revoke Choksi’s citizenship and to concurrently pursue his extradition to India to face criminal charges there. There has been no violation of Choksi’s legal and constitution protections, despite the decision of my administration to revoke his citizenship. We fully respect the jurisdiction of the court over this matter. We live in a globalized world where cooperation among states is required to fight and defeat criminals; to deny criminals the use of the state apparatus for protection and advancement of their criminal conduct.”
“India, Interpol, and the International community are happy with the strident efforts by Antigua & Barbuda to encourage Dominica to deport Choksi to India. That is precisely why we have and continue to encourage the government of Dominica, to make him persona non grata, for illegally entering their country and to deport him to India where he is still a citizen. My request on behalf of Antigua & Barbuda, for Dominica to consider deporting Choksi directly to India, as a form of state cooperation to apprehend a fugitive, is perfectly acceptable. This request for state cooperation could never be construed by any law-abiding entity, of integrity and legitimate purpose to be an “ill-considered utterance,” he further emphasised.
The Antiguan Prime Minister concluded, “Then again, we should expect no better from them. The UPP continues to elevate criminal elements in their organisation, to include a convicted murderer and a rapist. Additionally, the claim that the request undermines the rule of law, or Choksi’s constitutional rights is preposterous. People are deported routinely for entering countries illegally. Ultimately, if he is deported to Antigua, he will continue to enjoy the legal and constitutional protections of citizenship.”
Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a fresh statement has claimed that fugitive Mehul Choksi is still an Indian citizen and Dominica should directly deport him to India. Statement came after opposition hit out at Browne for leaving Antiguan Citizen Choksi high and dry. pic.twitter.com/UvnFd4H3Vh— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) May 30, 2021
Mehul Choksi got citizenship of Antigua in November 2017, weeks before the PNB scam broke out, by the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme.
Earlier, pictures of fugitive Mehul Choksi, held behind bars in Dominica, had surfaced on social media. The photographs were shared by Antigua News Room.
The hopes of fugitive Mehul Choksi’s deportation to India strengthened after reports suggested that a private jet (Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft) reached Douglas Charles airport in Dominica from Qatar on Saturday. Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul had tweeted, “Its arrival has raised questions about who it brought to Dominica and who will be leaving Dominica onboard?” Kaul had pointed out how Chartered plane from Delhi has landed in Dominica on Saturday. “A similar aircraft was used to get Christian Michel few years ago from UAE. Is Mehul Choksi on his way out soon? Dominica Court however till now has put a stay on his repatriation,” he had emphasised.
BIG: Chartered plane from Delhi has landed in Dominica few hours ago. A similar aircraft was used to get Christian Michel few years ago from UAE. Is Mehul Choksi on his way out soon? Dominica Court however till now has put a stay on his repatriation. pic.twitter.com/a1EtqQZCVN— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) May 29, 2021
It must be mentioned that the fugitive went missing from Antigua about a week ago and later surfaced in Roseau at the Canefield beach in Dominica. He was arrested while he was disposing of some key documents in the sea. In a press release by the Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs of Dominica, it informed that Choksi was detained by law enforcement for ‘illegal entry’ into the country. Even though Dominica identified Mehul Choksi as a citizen of India, it said that it will make arrangements to repatriate him to Antigua and not India. Following the development, the Indian government has sent a representative, equipped with proper documentation, to Dominica to seek the fugitive’s deportation to India.
Role of Mehul Choksi in the PNB scam
Choksi, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is accused of committing bank fraud worth Rs 13,600 crore on Punjab National Bank. The fraud came to light in 2018 and he along with his nephew has been on the run since. While Modi is currently in the UK, Choksi was in Antigua. Recently, a UK court had ruled that his nephew Nirav Modi will be extradited to India from UK to face charges of conspiring to defraud PNB. Choksi faces charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty, including delivery of property, corruption and money laundering.