Issues notification to extend extradition rights to Antigua to pursue the case
Hopeful of using its Commonwealth membership to pursue the extradition of Mehul Choksi from Antigua, the government has issued a Gazette notification extending extradition rights to the Caribbean country as part of the Commonwealth procedure. Mr. Choksi, a jeweller and uncle of fugitive Nirav Modi, both of whom are wanted for loan defaults in India, has reportedly been residing in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda. He was granted a “Citizenship by Investment” there in November 2017.
According to the Gazette notification (F.No. T-413/35/2018 dated August 3,2018), made public on Monday, the government directed “that the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1962, shall apply with respect to Antigua and Barbuda.” India has no extradition treaty with Antigua, but has discussed with officials in Antigua the possibility of using a clause in the Extradition Act (1993) of Antigua and Barbuda that extends similar procedures to all 53 countries of the Commonwealth that former colonies of the United Kingdom are part of.
“These notifications constitute an extradition arrangement between India and Antigua and Barbuda under their Extradition Act of 1993 and provide the legal basis for extraditing offenders from each other’s jurisdiction,” government sources said on Monday, stressing that the countries only have an “arrangement” but not an “extradition treaty.”
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In the past week, a series of Indian officials have made a beeline for the small island of Antigua, as the controversy over how Mr. Choksi was allowed to escape charges of banking fraud and violation of capital market regulations in the Punjab National Bank case worth more than ₹ 13,500 crores, grew. On July 31, India’s Ambassador to Guyana, V. Mahalingham, who is also accredited to Antigua and Barbuda, flew there to meet Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne and personally make the case for Mr. Choksi’s extradition to India.
According to a press release from PM Browne’s office, published in the Antigua Chronicle, Mr. Browne “explained that the citizenship of Mr. Choksi could only be revoked with cause, based on whether or not Mr. Choksi had made false assertions or made omissions of facts during the citizenship application process.”
The Hindu explains: Citizenship by investment
Mr. Browne had also pointed to difficulties with the lack of an extradition treaty with India and the fact that India had not invoked the Commonwealth Extradition Act yet, which has now been fixed by the August 3 gazette notification. A team of External Affairs Ministry officials, led by the Additional Secretary for Consular, Passport and Visa issues Manpreet Vohra met with their Antiguan counterparts soon after Mr. Mahalingam’s visit and handed over a formal request for extradition. “[Antiguan officials] assured [India of] cooperation and due process,” an official told The Hindu.