The Indian High Commission in Georgetown, Guyana, which also oversees relations with Antigua & Barbuda, has asked the local government to detain PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi. The Indian mission made the request "in writing and verbally" as soon as it learned of Choksi's likely presence in the Caribbean island nation, and asked for his detention (and the prevention of his movement "by land, air or sea"), sources told India Today.
While Choksi's valid Indian passport was revoked in February, the fugitive diamantaire got the citizenship of Antigua & Barbuda in November last year. He had applied for the Antiguan passport under its Citizenship-by-Investment program. In a statement made via his attorney, Choksi had said that his desire to expand his business and roam freely around the globe motivated him to apply for the citizenship of the Caribbean island nation.
A local newspaper had reported that the government of Antigua & Barbuda may consider a "legitimate request" from India to revoke Choksi's citizenship. Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) request for an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Choksi is likely to be granted soon.
"After extensive vetting, Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship by registration in November 2017," the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua & Barbuda had earlier said. Antigua is one of the two major Caribbean islands that make up the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
The CIU added that 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information about Choksi. On January 15, 2018, Choksi swore the Oath of Allegiance in Antigua, a requirement under the provisions of the Citizenship by Investment Act.
Choksi had obtained the citizenship much before the PNB fraud came to light.
While India does not have any bilateral extradition treaty with Antigua, it can still seek Choksi's custody under money laundering charges as Antigua is a member of Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental watchdog to combat money laundering.
The citizenship-by-investment programs (CIP) in Caribbean island states like St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda have attracted high net worth individuals from countries like China and India. The paid citizenship programs and lack of extradition treaties have made these islands a safe haven for fugitives.
While negligible taxes and freedom to travel across the globe attract businessmen to opt for passports of these nations, the convenient process to obtain citizenship has made them the top choice for absconders evading the law in their own countries.
English-speaking Antigua is one of the two major Caribbean islands that make up the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda. With a population of close to 1 lakh, the country is also a popular retirement home for billionaires.
Edited By Karan Dhar