India will press for early deportation of Mehul Choksi in Dominica on the ground that he continues to be Indian citizen, a government official has told NDTV. Despite acquiring Antiguan citizenship, Mehul Choksi has not renounced his Indian citizenship.
An eight-member multi-agency team of officials is in Dominica for extradition of the 62-year-old fugitive diamond trader — wanted over the Rs 14,000 crore loan fraud at the Punjab National Bank, India’s second largest state-owned bank.
“Under Section 23 of Citizenship Rules 2009, it is necessary for an Indian to renounce his citizenship and the Union Home ministry to ratify it. The process has not been completed by Mehul Choksi,” said a senior official in the home ministry. The process of renouncing citizenship involves a declaration before a designated officer, verification of particulars and issuance of a certificate.
The court hearing in Dominica is slated for Wednesday. India is going to contend that Mehul Choksi is an Indian citizen and has criminal cases going on against him. “As far as Choksi’s acquiring Antiguan citizenship is concerned, India is of the view that he has done on basis of false declarations and we have been opposing it,” the official said.
Mehul Choksi’s team has argued that the new Citizenship rules cannot supersede the Constitution of India.
“Article 9 of the Constitution states that any Indian applying for foreign citizenship on any grounds will lose Indian citizenship by default. So India’s plea will not hold any merit,” a lawyer representing him has said.
NDTV has learnt that the Enforcement Directorate is going to file an application before a Dominican Court on Wednesday seeking his deportation. The application mainly contains evidence of crimes committed by the fugitive Indian businessman.
The agency will also tell the court that despite numerous notices pasted outside Choksi’s duplex residence at Walkeshwar — an affluent area in South Mumbai – he has not responded. This is the same address on which an Indian passport was reportedly issued to Mehul Choksi.
“We have been trying to reach him via summons, various bank statements and income tax notices and letters but have got no response,” a senior ED official said.
Regular notices and communication is being pasted outside his residence since 2018.
Mehul Choksi and his nephew, celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, had skipped India in January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam surfaced. Later, it became known that he had taken citizenship of Antigua two months before the scam surfaced.
He was reported missing from Antigua last week and days later, was caught in Dominica. Sources said he was on way to Cuba, to escape extradition. After his arrest in Dominica, Antigua said he should be handed over to India directly.
In Dominica, the main opposition party has alleged that the Dominican Prime Minister is part of a conspiracy involving Mehul Choksi.