Antigua and Barbuda has cancelled the citizenship of Mehul Choksi granted under the Caribbean nation’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) in November 2017 even as his partner-in-crime in the ₹13,500-crore fraud case, Nirav Modi, suffered a legal setback after a UK court ordered his extradition last week, people familiar with the matter said.
“Antigua cancelled his citizenship sometime last year after which he has approached a civil court in St John’s. We believe he will lose his appeal as he is fighting the Antiguan government on a well-established investment scheme, which he misused to take refuge in the island nation after cheating Indian banks,” said the CBI officer cited above.
They added that as soon as Choksi exhausts his appeal against revocation of citizenship, his extradition proceedings will begin as Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne has already assured India of sending him back.
According to a June 2019 report by Antigua Observer, Browne, while calling Choksi a “crook”, had said that his citizenship will be revoked as his reputation had tarnished the image of CIP. The CIP, run by CIU (Citizenship by Investment Unit) of Antigua allows a person to get citizenship of the island nation, which comes with visa-free travel to 132 countries, upon investment of $200,000.
In the absence of an extradition treaty between two countries, India sought Choksi’s extradition in August 2018 on the principle of reciprocity and dual criminality but it is pending due to the legal issues. The principle of dual criminality’ requires that the offence for which the extradition is sought has to be an offence in both the – requesting and requested — countries.
The investigators are hopeful that as soon as Mehul Choksi loses his citizenship revocation appeal, his extradition will be easy as the evidence against him very strong, exactly like Nirav Modi as both indulged in the use of Letters of Undertaking (LOUs), dummy companies, destroying of evidence and intimidation of witnesses.
Last Thursday, UK court not only accepted CBI and ED’s evidence against Modi but it praised the nature of documents, audio/video files and testimonies gathered by the investigators.
Mehul Choksi siphoned off close to ₹7,080 crore in the ₹13,578 crore PNB fraud before fleeing to Antigua on January 4, 2018, a month before the mega-scam came to notice.
In a charge sheet filed last year, the ED claimed Choksi didn’t just cheat Indian banks but customers and lenders in Dubai and the United States as well. His assets worth ₹2,500 crore have already been attached. Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, who represents Choksi, could not be reached for his comments.