One of the two main accused in the Rs 13,700 crore Punjab National Bank scam, Mehul Choksi, will soon be repatriated to India, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne told India Today TV in an exclusive interview. Ahead of the Caricom-India leaders meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York, Gaston Browne said Mehul Choksi was a "crook" and that it's a matter of time before he would be extradited to India as he had exhausted all his legal options.
Browne said India failed to inform the Antigua and Barbuda authorities on time (about Choksi fleeing from India), but assured that he would be sent to India as soon as his legal options ended. "It's the Indian authorities who didn't inform us on time but we are clear that he will have to go back," said Gaston Browne, without giving a specific timeline on Choksi's repatriation. He said the island nation was eying cooperation on city development, trade and investment deals with India. "That would be my focus in the Caricom-India meet," he added.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, who is currently in a London jail, are wanted by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation for allegedly defrauding the PNB to the tune of Rs 13,700 crore.
This is the second time Antiguan PM has assured that Choksi would be repatriated to India. In June, he said the Antiguan authorities had agreed to revoke Choksi's citizenship after pressure from India. He also said Antigua was not trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals. "Choksi's citizenship was processed, he got through. We do have recourse, the reality is that his citizenship will be revoked and he will be deported to India. It's not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes," said PM Browne.
The fugitive diamantaire had taken the citizenship of Antigua in November 2017 and the oath of allegiance on January 15 the next year (2018). Following the row on his citizenship, Choksi had said he had "lawfully applied" to be a citizen of the Caribbean country. As per the country's rules, a passport holder of Antigua and Barbuda can enjoy visa-free travel to around 132 countries including the United Kingdom, Singapore and countries in the Schengen area that cover almost all of Europe.
Edited by Manoj Sharma