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PNB scam: Mehul Choksi says use of Antigua PM's powers to extradite him violates nation's democracy

BusinessToday.In     February 23, 2019

Crying foul over attempts to extradite him to India, fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi has raised questions over use of Antiguan Prime Minister's discretionary powers to this end. One of the prime accused in the Rs 14,000 crore banking fraud at the Punjab National Bank, Choksi has appealed before the Antigua and Barbuda High Court that the using discretionary powers of Prime Minister Gaston Browne to extradite him on India's requests in realtion to the PNB scam will be in violation of the Carribean country's democracy, as per sources at the Enforcement Directorate. Choksi, and his nephew Nirav Modi, have been on the run since last year in the face of pressure from India agencies over probe of PNB scam.

Reports that surfaced towards the end of last year suggested that India is planning to send a long-haul plane to Antigua and Barbuda to bring back Mehul Choksi. In January this year, Browne's Chief of Staff Lionel "Max" Hurst said that the Antiguan PM's office is not aware of any Indian officials arriving in Antigua and Barbuda to take Choksi in custody over the PNB scam.

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Talking to India Today, Hurst had said that Choksi is a citizen of the Carribean island nation, and the matter is sub-judice and out of political ambit. Choksi, the founder of Gitanjali Gems and uncle of another PNB-scam-accused Nirav Modi, had fled India on January 4, 2018 as the agencies began closing in on him. He had applied for Antiguan citizenship in November 2017 by the way of investment, two months before the PNB scam even came to light.

Choksi has already filed an appeal before the Antiguan court on August 2018 to block extradition efforts by India. He has already surrendered his Indian passport and is a full-fleged citizen of Antigua and Barbuda. In the absence of an extradition treaty with the Carribean nation, India has been trying to bring back Choksi under the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1993 of Antigua and Barbuda, which provides for extradition of a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth country.

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(Edited by Vivek Punj)

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