New Delhi, Aug 14: The Antigua government has reportedly refused to extradite fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, a co-accused in the Rs 13,636-crore Punjab National Bank fraud, sources in the Enforcement Directorate have said. Also Read - Nirav Modi's Extradition Approved by UK Home Minister Ahead of Boris Johnson's India Visit
They further added that the Antigua government has also said it would not arrest Choksi as their Constitution prevents them from doing so. The Carribean island nation has reportedly quoted the lack of any extradition treaty with India as the reason behind the move. Also Read - Mehul Choksi Still A Citizen of Antigua, Unlikely To Return Before 2027
According to reports, the Antigua government has said they will protect Choksi as he has been given citizenship as per the rules, and hence his passport also cannot be revoked. Also Read - Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail Awaits Nirav Modi, Keeps Special Cell Barrack Number 12 Ready
The development comes days after New Delhi handed over a request to Antigua for Choksi’s extradition. “The team met the Foreign Ministry officials of the island nation on Saturday and handed over the request to extradite Choksi to India,” news agency PTI quoted an official source as saying.
The Indian government also notified Antigua under the Extradition Act, 1962. In its order dated August 3, 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs directed that the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1962 shall be applicable “with respect to Antigua and Barbuda” which notified India as a “designated Commonwealth country” under the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1993 of Antigua and Barbuda.
However, sources said that the Antigua government has denied having any treaty with India as per which they will have to extradite Choksi.
Antiguan authorities cleared his citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application. Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15.
Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported.
As the news report created a furore, a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said that PCC was issued by the passport office of Mumbai for Antigua and Barbuda on the basis of a clear PVR available on his passport.
Choksi is one of the alleged masterminds of the USD 2 billion scam in state-run Punjab National Bank and is an uncle of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi. He is wanted in India by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate probing the fraud, the biggest banking scam in the country.