Mehul Choksi extradition case may also end up in a UK court
India’s request to Antigua and Barbuda for the extradition of fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi may finally be decided in the United Kingdom, where India is already fighting a case for the extradition of Vijay Mallya. The UK’s extradition laws are stringent and its extradition process lengthy, with a special emphasis on the possible treatment of persons sought to be extradited in the country seeking their extradition.
Choksi has moved the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in Antigua and Barbuda to stall his extradition to India by challenging the extradition law of his adopted country.
“The hearing of the petition is likely to take place within the next two months and the appellate court for moving against any order the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is the Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) in the UK,” said a person associated with Choksi’s legal team who asked not to be identified.
JCPC is the court for final appeal for the UK overseas territories, crown dependencies and Commonwealth countries which have retained the option of appealing there. Antigua and Barbuda has.
“If Choksi gets relief or his petition is denied, both ways, an appeal is likely to filed in the JCPC by the aggrieved party which will take a final call on the issue. Though there is a long-term plan for allowing a Caribbean court of justice to fulfil the role of JCPC, I don’t think a decision in this regard will be taken very soon,” added the person.
Choksi’s nephew and co-accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, Nirav Modi, has been traced to the UK. India has submitted a request for his extradition and it is expected that a judicial review of the request will be set in motion as it was in the case of liquor baron Mallya.
Both Choksi and Nirav Modi left India in the first week of January and have not returned despite repeated summons from the investigating agencies and courts. They have been accused by PNB of defrauding it to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore.
HT has learnt that Choksi has made the Antiguan ministers for citizenship and external affairs respondents in his petition. In the interim, Choksi has requested the court for an injunction restraining the respondents from passing any order on the request of Indian government.
The person associated with the legal team of Choksi said advocate Vijay Aggarwal, who is appearing for Nirav Modi too in courts in India, was in the Caribbean country for a week to help draft the petition.
Aggarwal didn’t respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
In an interview to HT on Sunday, Choksi said he has challenged section 9 (4) of the Antiguan Extradition Act which grants power to the external affairs minister of the Caribbean country to forward the request of any Commonwealth country for extradition to the court concerned.
Choksi’s contention is that the power granted to the external affairs minister is arbitrary as it doesn’t give any right of hearing to the aggrieved party. The minister can pass the order without recording the reason.
He has also argued that the extradition act of Antigua has been lifted from the UK’s Extradition Act of 1989. But the UK’s act was amended in 2003 and this didn’t happen in the case of the Caribbean country which now needs to update its law, he said.
Choksi also claimed Antiguan laws follow English common law principles, which accord the highest importance to human rights and that he would seek the same protection sought by Mallya in the UK. India had to, apart from submitting evidence in the Mallya case, also send a video of the Arthur Road jail cell in Mumbai where Mallya will be housed if the extradition process goes through. The closing arguments in the Mallya case are scheduled for Wednesday.
In a related development, India has also set in motion the process for submitting an extradition request for Nirav Modi’s brother Neeshal Modi to Belgium. On the request of Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the money laundering aspect of the PNB fraud, Interpol has issued a Red Notice against Purvi Mehta, Modi’s sister and an accused in the prosecution complaint filed by the ED in the connection with the PNB fraud.