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In A Big Diplomatic Win For India, PNB Mastermind Mehul Choksi To Be Extradited By Antigua

Mehul Choksi, fugitive businessman who is a key accused in the Rs 13, 500 PNB fraud case along with his Nephew Nirav Modi, will be soon sent back to India from Antigua and Barboda.

Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had left the country days before the PNB scam was exposed and criminal cases were lodged against them. Choksi had taken nationality of Antigua and Barbuda in November 2017, using CIP Citizenship by Investment program.

Choksi, promoter of Geetanjali Gems and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted by Electorate Directorate and the CBI in connection with the PNB fraud. Nirav Modi, however is in London jail.

Now, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barboda, Gaston Browne has said that Mehul Choksi is a “crook” and “adds no value to the country”.

He further stated that “He will be deported ultimately after he exhausts appeal. Indian officials are free to investigate based on his willingness to participate”

But, Antigua and Barbuda is one among the few countries which do not have  extradition treaty with India.

It is also said that the process of obtaining the citizenship was done two months before the scam was exposed and when Antigua asked India to provide details he was given a clean chit.

“In any case, our officials acted based on the information from India and made him a citizen …the Indian officials have to take the responsibility for that situation,” the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said.

PNB Fraud

In the month of January 2018, PNB informed Bombay Stock exchange that it has detected some fraudulent and unauthorized transactions in one of its branches in Mumbai to the tune of $ 1771.69 million. Following the announcement, the share price of the bank plunged 10 percent.

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation received two complaints from PNB against billionaire Nirav Modi and Jewellery Company alleging fraudulent transactions worth about Rs. 11, 400 crores. This is in addition to the Rs. 280 crore fraud case that he is already under investigation for, again filed by PNB

Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, colluded with former PNB employee Gokulnath Shetty to pull off the heist. They used fake PNB guarantees worth Rs.11,000 crores to obtain loans from overseas branches of Indian Banks.

The fraud dates back to 2011, but came to light in 2018 when representatives of Modi’;s companies applied for a loan. By, then Shetty had already retired and his successor denied   the request.

However, the main accused Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had already fled from India.

But, is it that easy to deport Mehul Choksi?

Well, it is actually not easy because as told earlier India has no extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda. Mehul also has recourse to Antiguan legal system, which could block his extradition. The legal process will take a long time. He could also challenge Antiguan government if his citizenship is revoked.

For now Central Bureau of Investigation has requested Antigua to send Choksi back to India under a United Nations Convention against Corruption to which both countries are party.

Well, even though there are hurdles,the government is pulling out all the stops to deport Mehul Choksi to India.

Sharanya Alva

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