'Something fishy': Lawyer says Mehul Choksi may not have reached Dominica voluntarily

Updated on May 27, 2021 01:20 PM IST

After being missing for days, Choksi was apprehended in Dominica.

A file photo of Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi who has gone missing in Antigua. (ANI Photo)
A file photo of Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi who has gone missing in Antigua. (ANI Photo)
ByNeeraj Chauhan | Written by Shivani Kumar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Mehul Choksi's lawyer Vijay Aggarwal on Thursday questioned the legality of Choksi's possible repatriation straight to India after Antigun Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that his country won't accept the fugitive businessman and he will be sent to India straight. The lawyer also doubted what is being seen as Choksi's bid to flee Antigua and said there should be no speculations about how he landed in Dominica. "My understanding is that his reaching Dominica is not voluntary. So, I find something fishy that nobody seems to be at the moment looking into the fact that how exactly he reached Dominica," he said.

After being missing for days, Choksi was apprehended in Dominica. Arrangements were initially being made to hand him over to Antigua police, but PM Browne said he should be extradited to India as he enjoys rights and protection as a citizen of Antigua.

Citing Section 9 of the Indian Citizenship Act, advocate Aggarwal said, Choksi can only be deported to Antigua where he has legal citizenship. "The moment Mehul Choksi acquired the citizenship of Antigua he ceased to be a citizen of India. Hence legally as per the Immigration and Passport Act, Section 17 and 23, he can be deported only to Antigua," Aggarwal said in a statement on Thursday.

Also Read | 'No reliable info that Mehul Choksi has fled': Antigua PM

Aggarwal further asserted that Choksi can't be repatriated to India as there is an Antiguan High Court order restraining processing any request from India. "It has to be done legally and it is not a game of chess. We are dealing with a human being and nor a pawn that shall be placed here or there and it cannot be on somebody’s desires and whims," Aggarwal also said.

He also said that as per the universal declaration of human rights, there are "international covenants on voluntary repatriation and a person can be deported to only the country to his citizenship".

Choksi is wanted in India in connection with 14,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud and money-laundering case. He fled to the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda in 2018 after the Indian police launched an investigation against the diamantaire.

He is accused of siphoning off close to 7,080 crore in the 13,578 crore PNB fraud. Choksi was also allegedly involved in the stock market manipulation in 2013.

He went missing on Sunday evening after he left his home for dinner.

After Choksi was captured in Dominica, Browne said "he may have entered the island illegally, possibly by boats".

"The Dominican government is cooperating with the Antiguan and Indian governments. We have requested Dominican law enforcement agencies to not return him to Antigua where he has legal and constitutional rights as a citizen. We specifically requested them to have Indian law enforcement agencies make necessary arrangements to have him returned directly to India," ANI quoted Browne as saying.

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