Additional Secretary, External Affairs Ministry, Manpreet Vora met Antigua and Barbuda External Affairs Minister E Paul Chet Greene late Friday night
The Caribbean island government confirmed the continued presence of Mehul Choksi on their soil and promised India all possible help in his extradition.
This could be the beginning of the end of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi’s run from the law.
The Indian government late on Friday night delivered an extradition request to the Antigua and Barbuda government for him, beginning the process of getting him back.
The extradition letter was hand delivered to Antigua and Barbuda Foreign Minister E Paul Chet Greene by Additional Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry Manpreet Vora.
Speaking exclusively to Mumbai Mirror over the phone, Chet Greene said his government will extend all possible help to the Indian government. “I will not pre-empt the legal process, but I can reassure you of my government’s commitment to cooperate fully to any legitimate request from our counterpart, the sovereign government of India,” he said.
While earlier there was confusion over whether India had an extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean island nation government on Friday confirmed that such an accord was signed by the two governments in 2000.
The Antigua and Barbuda government also confirmed the continued presence of Choksi on their soil.
A source in the government, however, said the process of extradition will be a long one. “Choksi has already engaged legal representation and extraditions almost invariably invoke lengthy processes like you saw in the Vijay Mallya case,” the source said.
The source that while it will be unconstitutional and illegal to restrict the movements of an Antigua and Barbuda citizen without cause, if India gets an Interpol Red Corner Notice issued against Choksi, it will help.
The source also said that the government in Antigua Barbuda is in a lockdown because of the ongoing carnival celebrations in the country. The country’s government offices will re-open on Wednesday.
Choksi has hired a legal heavyweight David Dorsette of Watt Dorsette & Associates legal firm to represent him.
The Antigua and Barbuda officials met Indian High Commissioner in Georgetown (Guyana) Venkatachalam Mahalingam on July 31. This is when both the sides agreed that in January 2018 – when Antigua and Barbuda citizenship was granted to Choksi – there was no case against him. The high commissioner then promised a letter of request for extradition from the Indian side.
Choksi is the prime accused in one of the two main cases related to the Rs 13,500-crore PNB fraud. In the other case, his nephew, Nirav Modi, is the key accused. Choksi has taken Antigua and Barbuda citizenship under its Citizenship for Investment Programme (CIP).
Choksi and Modi slipped out of India in January, just weeks before reports of the country’s biggest banking fraud began appearing in the media. The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have since filed charge sheets against Choksi and special courts have issued non-bailable warrants against him, declaring him a fugitive.