Repatriate Mehul Choksi to India, Antigua tells Dominica
Antigua has asked Dominica to declare Mehul Choksi persona non grata and repatriate the fugitive to India, according to news agency ANI and reports in Antiguan media.
The reports cite Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne telling local media that he has asked Dominica to repatriate Choksi directly to India and that his country will not accept the fugitive back.
Choksi, who has sought refuge in Antigua after allegedly cheating Punjab National Bank of ₹13,578 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi, and fleeing India in 2018, left his home on Sunday to go for dinner at a well-known restaurant in the southern part of the island and was never seen again. He was located in Dominica, another Caribbean island country 101 nautical miles from Antigua. He is currently in the custody of Criminal Investigation Department of Dominica, with whom Indian officials are coordinating, people familiar with the development said.
Gaston Browne has said that he has requested Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit and the law enforcement agencies there not to return Choksi to Antigua, where he has legal and constitution protection as a citizen. “We have requested that he be detained and to make arrangements with Dominican government to have him returned to India,” Browne told ANI, while adding that “Choksi may not enjoy the same protection in Dominica”. He added that Choksi made a monumental error by skipping Antigua.
A senior official in India said, “We are in touch with authorities in Dominica to get him repatriated to India. He is not a citizen there so he can be deported quickly.”
The police in Dominica apprehended him in the northern territory of the island on the basis of a yellow notice issued by Antigua after he went missing.
Choksi’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, had said on Wednesday evening, “I have spoken to family, family is happy and relieved that finally whereabouts of Mehul Choksi are known. And efforts are being made to speak to him so that one can know the clearer picture that how he was taken to Dominica.”
On Tuesday, the Antiguan Prime Minister had said that if Choksi had fled the country, he would have done so using a boat. The Antiguan government has said on several occasions that it is ready to extradite Choksi to India for which the process is already going on.
His extradition case, as well as revocation of citizenship by Antigua, is currently being pursued in a court there, which he has challenged.
If Dominica agrees to repatriate Choksi directly to India, it will happen on the basis of Interpol red notice because India doesn’t have any formal arrangement with Dominica to extradite persons, according to people familiar with the process.
India has cordial relations with Commonwealth of Dominica, which has population of over 72,000.
As part of Vaccine Maitri, India donated 35,000 doses to Dominica in February this year. India exports mainly pharmaceutical products, readymade garments, textiles and home furnishings, and food products to Dominica, while the latter exports mainly scrap metals. Bilateral trade between India and Dominica during 2017-18 amounted to US$2.38 million.
The Indian government also provided financial support of US$ 1 lakh as immediate relief and granted US$ 1 million for infrastructure re-construction in Dominica under the India UNDP Fund in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.