Explained: Mehul Choksi caught in Dominica but India may have to wait to get him
Efforts by Indian authorities to get back fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi will depend on the response to the request for his repatriation from Dominica, a country with which India doesn’t have an extradition treaty or arrangement.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that several complex legal issues will decide the case of Choksi, a key accused in bank fraud cases involving the Punjab National Bank, including legal remedies available to him in Dominica.
The people made it clear that the matter wasn’t as cut and dry as the assertion by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda – where Choksi sought refuge after fleeing India in 2018 – that the fugitive businessman should be repatriated to India instead of being sent back to Antigua.
“There are issues such as Choksi’s Antiguan nationality and whether he has violated any laws in Dominica. If he has violated any laws in Dominica, there is the question of whether authorities there think his case should be processed by the Dominican system,” a person said.
While India has an extradition arrangement with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica isn’t among the 58 countries with which New Delhi has either extradition treaties or arrangements.
The people cited above said Indian authorities are in touch with their counterparts in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica to press for Choki’s speedy repatriation.
In cases involving countries with which India doesn’t have an extradition arrangement, the repatriation of fugitives largely depends on decisions made by local authorities, the people said. Such decisions are influenced by the legal remedies available under local laws to the fugitive and assurances given by India regarding the treatment of the fugitive, the people added.
Browne has told the media that Antigua doesn’t want Choksi to be sent back and that it would prefer for him to be directly repatriated from Dominica to India. He also contended that Choksi had made a “monumental error” by travelling to Dominica as this had prejudiced the constitutional and legal protections enjoyed by him as an Antiguan citizen.
The position adopted by Browne is understandable as Antigua has been trying for the past few years to revoke the citizenship obtained by Choksi under the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). The programme, launched in 2013, allows wealthy foreign investors to acquire citizenship by making an economic contribution of $130,000 or a real estate investment of $200,000.
Choksi, who allegedly cheated the Punjab National Bank of ₹13,578 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi, gave up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport after obtaining Antiguan citizenship. Browne had last year described Choksi as a “crook” and said he would be repatriated to India after he exhausted his appeals against the move to revoke his citizenship.