Mehul Choksi gives up Indian citizenship, surrenders passport in Antigua
21 January 2019
Fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, who is wanted in India by multiple agencies in connection with loan fraud, has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to the Indian high commission in Antigua in an attempt to avoid extradition to India.
Choksi, 59, also deposited $177 with his passport (Z-3396732) to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. He has given his new address as Jolly Harbour Marks, Antigua, according to officials in the ministry of foreign affairs.
An Antiguan court is hearing India’s case for Choksi’s extradition and his dual citizenship could create problems for him in the case, the foreign ministry officials said.
Officials in the home ministry said they are confident of bringing back all fugitives, including Mehul Choksi.
However, India and Antigua do not have a bilateral extradition pact. But a law in the island nation allows its government to send back the fugitive diamond trader to a designated Commonwealth country.
"Our government has passed Fugitive Economic Offenders bill. Those who have fled will be brought back. It might take some time but they all will be brought back," home minister Rajnath Singh said.
Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship of Antigua in 2018, and he took the oath of allegiance to that country on 15 January last year. Nearly two weeks later, on 29 January, the CBI filed a case and started investigating him and his nephew Nirav Modi.
Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi are accused of a Rs13,000 crore fraud on the government, involving fake guarantees in the name of state-run Punjab National Bank, to secure loans abroad. Both skipped the country a year ago. Choksi left the country for medical treatment in the US.
In December, the Interpol put out a red corner notice against Choksi on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI's) request.
Choksi has told a court in Mumbai that he cannot travel to India as he cannot suffer a 41-hour journey from Antigua because of his poor health. He also said in a written statement that the Enforcement Directorate had misled the court by not revealing his condition and the face that he had been in touch with banks and wanted to settle his dues
Choksi recently claimed that he had proposed to settle the amount that is due to PNB. He also denied that he left the country with an intention to defraud the bank.
The diamantaire also claimed that his case was “completely different” from that of his nephew, Nirav Modi, who is also named as an accused in another similar case involving PNB.
“The case of accused (Choksi) is completely different from the case of accused Nirav Modi and the accused always had sanctioned limits (for LoU transactions at PNB) and Enforcement Directorate has attached the jewellery of the flagship companies of the accused in respect of the first FIR pertaining to Nirav Modi even though he has got nothing to do with it,” Choksi’s lawyers said.