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Antigua to revoke Mehul Choksi's citizenship, PM Browne says he will be repatriated to India  

File photo of Mehul Choksi. Photograph:( ANI )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jun 25, 2019, 12.11 PM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

In a major blow to fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, the Antiguan PM has announced that his citizenship shall be revoked soon. WION has learnt that Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Tuesday stated that Choksi, once he exhausts all his legal options, will be repatriated to India. 

A local Antiguan daily, Antigua Observer, reported that PM Gaston Browne is set to revoke Choksi's citizenship. Browne said that his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship will be revoked in short order.

“His citizenship was processed; he got through but the reality is his citizenship will be revoked and he will be repatriated to India; so there is recourse. It’s not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes,” Browne said.

"I can assure you, after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited,” Browne added. 

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“We have to allow for due process. He has a matter before the court and as we said to the Indian Government, criminals have fundamental rights, too, and Choksi has a right to go to court and defend his position. But I can assure you after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited.”

In his statement, PM Browne seems to be sending out a message that his country is not a safe haven for economic offenders.

He said, "It’s not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes,”

The Antiguan government had told India that "criminals have fundamental rights too and Choksi has a right to go to court and defend his position".

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Meanwhile, government sources on Tuesday stated that India waits for Antigua's internal process of revoking Mehul Choksi's citizenship.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that he has no information on the matter and that he would "not like to comment on it," news agency ANI reported.

"Only after that extradition process can start separately. India continues to engage with Antigua. MEA yet to hear officially from Antiguan govt about revoking of citizenship," ANI reported quoting government sources. 

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This comes soon after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday informed a Mumbai court that it was willing to provide an air ambulance with medical experts to bring Mehul Choksi from Antigua to India and provide him with all necessary treatment back home.

ED has filed a counter affidavit in a Mumbai court in connection with Mehul Choksi case in which it stated, "The medical reasons and conditions appear to be facades being erected merely to mislead the court in an obvious attempt to delay the lawful proceedings."

ED filed the counter affidavit following Choksi's recent affidavit in a Mumbai court which he stated that he left the country for medical treatment and did not flee. 

Choksi, last week, submitted an affidavit in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay with details of his diseases. Choksi stated that he has left the country for medical treatment and has not fled. He said that he is willing to join the investigation but is unable to travel to India owing to his medical issue. "If the court may deem it fit, it may direct the investigating officer to travel to Antigua," news agency ANI quoted Choksi. 

"I am willing to join the investigation but due to my medical issue, I am unable to travel. I undertake to travel to India as soon as I am medically fit to travel," Choksi stated.

"I am currently residing in Antigua and willing to co-operate in the investigation," he added. 

Choksi obtained an Antiguan citizenship in January this year. He is co-accused in the multi billion dollar PNB scam along with Nirav Modi. 

India continues to pursue Choksi's return with the Government of Antigua through diplomatic and legal channels.  New Delhi has already sent an extradition request to the country. Mehul Choksi had surrendered his Indian passport to the High Commission in Guyana in January of 2019.

The development comes days ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka during which PM Modi will strongly raise the issue of economic offenders being  provided safe havens.

Story highlights

An Antiguan daily reported that PM Gaston Browne is set to revoke Choksi's citizenship. Browne said that his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship will be revoked in short order.