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At G20, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman expresses concern over 'citizenship by investment' scheme for economic offenders

Nirmala Sitharaman Photograph:( Twitter )

WION New Delhi Jun 10, 2019, 07.14 AM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

In a strong message to countries that provide citizenship to fugitive economic offenders through investment-based schemes, India's finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has called for the need to deal with such practices. 

Speaking at G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, over the weekend she underscored the importance of international cooperation when it comes to dealing with economic offenders who "flee their countries to escape from the consequences of law".

A finance ministry statement said,"(FM) drew attention to the practice permitted by many jurisdictions, which allow economic offenders to use investment-based schemes to obtain residence or citizenship to escape from legal consequences and underlined the need to deal with such practices."

Adding, "she urged that closer collaboration and coordinated action were required to bring such economic offenders to face law."

Mehul Choksi wanted in the multi-crore Punjab national bank(PNB) scam took the citizenship of a Caribbean country Antigua and Barbuda under its "citizenship by Investment (CIP)" scheme. 

According to the scheme, foreign clients can get citizenship by investing in the country upto $100,000. The person gets benefit since the Caribbean country's passport offers visa-free travel to over 100+ countries including EU, UK.

The Citizenship By Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua received Mehul Choksi's application in May 2017.

In January of this year, Choksi surrendered his Indian passport to the High Commission in Guyana. 

India is currently pursuing Choksi's return with the government of Antigua through diplomatic and legal channels and has sent an extradition request to the country.

The finance minister also highlighted how India has taken tough stance against economic offenders and passed a law that "provides for denial of access to courts until the fugitive returns to the country."

The law also provides for confiscation of their properties and selling them off. 

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According to the scheme, foreign clients can get citizenship by investing in the country upto $100,000.