Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi continues to dodge the government’s attempts to bring him back to India. In his latest move, he has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport at Antigua where he has taken refuge for more than a year.
Choksi has reportedly deposited his Indian passport number Z 3396732 with cancelled pages to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. He has also deposited the mandatory $177 for leaving Indian citizenship to become a citizen of Antigua.
It may be recalled that Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems had fled India just before the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam became public. Government sources continue to insist that the change in citizenship will have no bearing on the process of bringing him to justice.
They point to the example of Christian Michel, a British national staying in UAE who was extradited to India from Dubai in connection with the Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam.” However, it is just as clear that the surrender of citizenship in a tax haven country will ensure that the process of extradition becomes tougher for India.
On December 25, 2018, Choksi told a court that he cannot undertake a 41-hour trip to India from Antigua due to bad health. The billionaire, who is 59, is accused of cheating Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs13,000 crore in collusion with his nephew Nirav Modi.
He escaped in January this year and is now a citizen of Antigua. Choksi has submitted in a Mumbai court that he’s expressed his willingness to join the investigation through video conferencing. He accused the ED of misleading the probe by deliberately not revealing his health condition. He said he was in constant touch with banks, and that he wanted to settle issues. Earlier this month, Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Choksi.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had been trying to get an RCN issued against Mehul Choksi for months. An RCN is a kind of international arrest warrant where Interpol asks its member countries to arrest or detain a fugitive, wanted by another member country if he is detected in their respective jurisdictions.
Fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua. This move of Choksi can be seen as an attempt to avoid extradition to India, where he is wanted by multiple agencies for loan fraud. Mehul Choksi, 59, also submitted 177 dollars with his passport (Z-3396732) to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. The foreign ministry had said that Mehul Choksi could not have dual citizenship.
India and Antigua do not have a bilateral extradition pact but the government has been trying to bring back the diamond billionaire from Antigua under a law of the island nation that allows it to send back a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth country.