Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has asked neighbouring Dominica – a Caribbean island located about 101 nautical miles from Antigua — where fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi was caught, to hand the diamantaire over to India directly, local media reported.
Media reports quoting sources said Choksi was caught by the local police of Dominica while trying to flee to Cuba in a boat.
After news of Choksi’s arrest in Dominica came late Tuesday (May 26 in India), Browne told local media that he has given “clear instructions” to the Dominican authorities to repatriate Choksi to India.
“We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face the criminal charges leveled against him,” Antigua News Room, a media outlet, quoted Browne’s interaction with journalists in Antigua and Barbuda.
Choksi will not have the same rights in Dominica as he has in Antigua and Barbuda, where he had been staying since 2018 after taking citizenship in 2017 under the Citizenship by Investment programme, Browne indicated. The Prime Minister believes for this reason, it would be easy for Dominica to repatriate him directly to India, the report said.
Choksi, who had recently fled from Antigua and Barbuda, was captured after an Interpol Yellow Notice was issued against him. A Yellow Notice is issued by the Interpol to track missing persons.
Choksi is wanted in a ₹ 13,500-crore loan fraud in the Punjab National Bank. He was last seen going for dinner in his car in Antigua and Barbuda on Sunday (May 23). His staff reported him missing after his car was found.
The businessman’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, had confirmed that Choksi had been missing since May 23.
The reports of Choksi’s “disappearance” created a flutter in the Caribbean island country after the opposition raised the issue in the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament.
Responding to the opposition, Prime Minister Browne had said his dispensation was “collaborating” with the Indian government, neighbouring countries and international police organizations to try and locate him.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi allegedly siphoned off ₹ 13,500 crore of public money from the state-run PNB using fraudulent letters of undertaking.
Nirav Modi, lodged in a London jail, is contesting his extradition to India after repeated denial of his bail by courts.
Choksi had taken citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda in 2017 and fled India in the first week of January 2018. The scam came to light subsequently. Both are facing a CBI probe.
Meanwhile, Mehul Choksi’s arrest in Dominica has brought relief to the family, his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said on Thursday (May 27). Aggarwal said the family was relieved the fugitive diamond trader was safe, reported The Indian Express.
“Efforts are on to speak to him so that we can know how he was taken to Dominica,” Aggarwal told the paper.