India approaches Antigua to detain, prevent Mehul Choksi from leaving country
The Indian envoy to Antigua will meet authorities of the Carribean nation on Monday to press for the release of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choski, accused of the multi-crore Punjab National Bank fraud in India, sources said.
“As soon as MEA received information of the likely presence of Mehul Choksi in Antigua, our high commission in Georgetown had alerted the A&B government, in writing and verbally, to confirm his presence in their territory and detain him and prevent his movement by land, air or sea,” a person familiar with the development said.
“We continue to liaise with relevant GOI agencies and the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to follow up on this matter,” the person added.
Choksi is wanted in the case of Prevention of Money Laundering Act and his passport was revoked in February 2018.
India has already written to the Antigua government on this.
Choksi has claimed he has decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda which is his country of “citizenship” and “abide by laws of the country” even as the Prime Minister of the Caribbean country told the media that his administration will fully cooperate with the Indian government.
His lawyer in the Caribbean country issued a statement claiming that the fugitive diamond merchant is still there. The statement also claims that Choksi has lawfully applied to be registered as a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment Program.
He got the citizenship in November 2017 but took the oath of allegiance on January 15 this year, only 15 days before the CBI registered its first FIR in the PNB scam.
He claimed to have applied for the Antiguan citizenship to expand business in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries, which an Antiguan passport provides for.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi have been accused by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) of defrauding the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs 14,000 crore in the issuance of Letters of Undertaking and Foreign Letters of Credit.
Both Choksi and Modi left India in the first week of January and have not returned despite summons from the CBI and the ED.