Mehul Choksi a crook, will be extradited: Antigua PM

 Mehul Choksi is one of the prime accused in the Rs 14,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam that surfaced last year

Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne on Wednesday said that they were not interested in having fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi in the country as he brings no value to the country. 

Browne said that Antigua & Barbuda had an independent judiciary where even criminals have the right to due process and Choksi's matter was before the court. Choksi had appealed on the initial decision against him and till he exhausts all his appeals, there was no decision that could be taken to extradite him, he said in an interview to ANI. 

Stating that they had received flawed information from the Indian officials, Browne said, "Our officials acted based on the information, made him a citizen only to be told subsequently that he is a crook." The Indian officials have to take responsibility for that situation, he added. 

"We had the unfortunate situation in which he was cleared by Indian officials as a person in good standing," Browne told ANI.  

The extradition process against Choksi, one of the prime accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam that surfaced last year, began in March 2019.

"What I can assure you is that ultimately he will be deported after he would have exhausted all of his appeals. He will be repatriated for that matter or extradited back to India for that matter to face whatever charges he has against him, Just a matter of time," he said.  

Brown also said that the Indian authorities had the right to come to Antigua and Barbuda to interrogate Choksi and had a special provision in place for officers and diplomats to do the same.

"They can come if they wish to interview Choksi which will be based on his willingness to participate, it has nothing to do with my government," Browne said, adding that several officials had already visited the country on the issue.

Choksi first absconded and later took Antiguan citizenship after giving up his Indian passport. Subsequently, New Delhi mounted diplomatic pressure on Antigua to cancel Choksi's citizenship and send him back to India to face the trial.

The Enforcement Directorate, which moved a special PMLA court here to get Choksi declared a fugitive economic offender, has accused the jeweller of fleeing the country to avoid arrest. Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, who is currently in a London jail, are wanted by the ED and the CBI for allegedly defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs 13,400 crore.
 

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