While Antigua and Barbuda work towards Mehul Choksi’s repatriation to India, the fugitive businessman’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said that his client is no longer an Indian citizen and hence cannot be sent back to India. He said that Choksi can only be handed over to Antigua and Barbuda. Aggarwal said that his legal team had already filed a habeas corpus petition in Dominica citing ‘deprivation of access’ and ‘legal assistance’ to him. He said that there shouldn’t be speculation till one finds out the exact fact about how Mehul Choksi landed up in Dominica. The lawyer claimed that Choksi reaching Dominica was not voluntary and he is smelling something fishy.
“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 the immigration and passport Act Section 17 and 23, he can be deported only to Antigua. Moreover, there is an Antiguan High Court order restraining processing any request from India,” Aggarwal said.
Choksi, who went missing on Saturday, was arrested in Dominica on May 26. Choksi’s counsel in Dominica, Wayne Marsh, claimed that the businessman told him he was abducted by ‘an Indian and Antiguan’ police officer on May 23 while visiting a restaurant for dinner. Choksi claimed that the abductors masked him and put him on a yacht that had a Dominican flag. He was taken to the southern tip of Dominica where he was kept till he was arrested by the local police on May 26, said Marsh, alleging that the businessman had a swollen eye and several bruises when he met him.
Dominica also hinted that Choksi will be repatriated to Antigua. The island nation’s Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs said in a statement that Choksi had been detained for ‘illegal entry’. It said that the Dominica government was in touch with Antigua and Barbuda to ascertain Choksi’s citizenship status and once the information is received, possible arrangements will be made for Choksi to be repatriated to Antigua.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne had requested Dominica to repatriate Choksi to India directly. “The Dominican government is cooperating with the Antiguan and Indian governments. We have requested Dominican law enforcement agencies to not return him to Antigua, where he has legal and constitutional rights as a citizen. We specifically requested them to have Indian law enforcement agencies make necessary arrangements to have him returned directly to India,” Browne told ANI.
Browne said that Choksi made a ‘monumental error’ by escaping from Antigua and Barbuda.
Mehul Choksi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of almost Rs 13,600 crore. He fled from India in January 2018. He took citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda on January 15, 2018, under the Citizenship for Investment programme.
According to reports, India is also looking into the circumstances leading to Choksi’s arrest and examining the options it has to bring him back. The government authorities are in touch with the Antigua and Barbuda and Dominican governments.