Hopes of repatriating PNB Bank scam accused Mehul Choksi to India soon has dimmed as Dominica has said that they will send him back to Antigua, not India. After Choksi was arrested in Dominica, it was speculated that he will be extradited to India. This was almost confirmed after Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne had said that he does not want Choksi in his country back, and requested Dominica govt to send him to India instead. Mehul Choksi is a citizen of Antigua and he was arrested in nearby Caribbean country Dominica yesterday.
But a press release issued by the Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs of Dominica has rejected that request from Antigua. Even though Dominica identified Mehul Choksi as a citizen of India, they said that will make arrangements to repatriate him to Antigua. The Press Release says that Choksi was detained by the law enforcement for ‘illegal entry into Dominica’.
Dominican govt said that a red alert has also been issued by Interpol on Mehul Choksi, and the ministry is communicating with the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda to ascertain some facts including the status of his Antiguan Citizenship. The press release then added that after the information is received from Antiguan authorities, possible arrangements will be made for Mehul Choksi to be repatriated to Antigua.
“Choksi would be charged with illegally entering Dominica and by the rule of law, he will be sent back to his home country Antigua and Barbuda, where he holds citizenship for the past four years,” officials of Dominica told WIC News confirming that he will be sent back to Antigua. Officials also confirmed that Choksi entered the country through seaways.
The statement issued by Dominica contradicted the comments by Antiguan PM Gaston Browne. He had said that Antigua will not accept Choksi back from Dominica, and had said that he has requested Dominican authorities to not send him back to Antigua and send him to India instead. Browne had told ANI that he has requested PM Skerrit and law enforcement in Dominica to not return Choksi to Antigua where he has legal and constitutional protection as citizen. “We’ve requested that he be detained and to make arrangements with Dominican govt to have him returned to India,” he said.
“He made a monumental error by skipping island. Dominican govt and law enforcement are cooperating and we have informed Indian government to have him repatriated to India,” Browne had added.
However, even though Antiguan PM said they will not accept Mehul Choksi back, Dominica seems to have evaluated legal aspects regarding the issue to decide to send him to Antigua. This is because, Choksi has been a citizen of Antigua since 2017, and therefore he is no longer a citizen of India. Moreover, Dominica does not have an extradition treaty with India.
Antigua has extradition with India, and its PM has openly said that he does not want Mehul Choksi to remain in his country, but despite that, his govt has not been able to send him to India. This is because Choksi had obtained citizenship of the country under the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). This program allows wealthy foreign investors to acquire Antiguan citizenship by making an economic contribution of $130,000 or a real estate investment of $200,000.
As a result, Choksi has legal protection against his extradition as a citizen. While the Antiguan govt is trying to revoke his citizenship after the PNB Bank scam was revealed, they have to wait till Choksi exhausts all his legal options. Last year Browne had said that he will be sent back to India after he exhausts his appeals against the move to revoke his citizenship, but that process will take time.
Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal had also said that Mehul Choksi can only be deported to Antigua from Dominica, as per Section 17 and 23 of the Immigration and Passport Act. He had said, “as per the Indian Citizenship Act, Section 9, the moment Mehul Choksi acquired the citizenship of Antigua, he ceased to be a Citizen of India. Hence, legally, as per Immigration and Passport Act Section 17 and 23, he can be deported only to Antigua.”