New Delhi: Fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, a key accused in defrauding Punjab National Bank, would still be considered an Indian citizen despite holding an Antigua and Barbuda passport, Reuters quoted an official as saying. After defrauding PNB of $2 billion, Mehul Choksi fled India before the accusations had come to light. Thus the Indian government is also pushing for his extradition.
Choksi’s application for Antiguan citizenship was granted after he received a clean chit from the Indian government. However, he is still considered an Indian citizen, stated India’s High Commissioner to Guyana Venkatachalam Mahalingam, during an interview held in Georgetown last week.
Mahalingam reportedly said that Choksi had not yet renounced his Indian citizenship. Therefore, the government had only revoked his passport and not the citizenship of the accused.
The extradition request was earlier made by the government in August 2018. Mahalingam claimed that the situation is complex since Choksi has already secured a passport from Antigua and Barbuda, even when India does not permit dual citizenship. Choksi could, however, be extradited based on Commonwealth-based agreement, added Mahalingam.
In October 2018, Choksi explained his health condition in one of the 10 applications filed before the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court headed by judge MS Azmi. The diamond trader stated that he cannot take a ’41-hours’ flight to come to India due to a “brain clot” and other medical conditions.
In a recent speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Any person who has cheated or looted the country shall be brought to the justice.” Modi added that any suspect involved in corruption case would face justice “regardless of whether he is in India or abroad”.
Choksi and his 47-year-old nephew Nirav Modi are wanted by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly defrauding the PNB to the tune of Rs 13,600 crore (US$1.8 billion). Nirav Modi has been on the run since February 2018 after Indian authorities launched an investigation in the case.