The Dominican government argued in court today that Mehul Choksi — the fugitive diamond trader wanted over the Rs 14,000 crore loan fraud at the Punjab National Bank — be deported to India. The Dominican Public Prosecution Service has told the High Court that the petition filed by the 62-year-old is not maintainable and it should not be heard. India is pressing for his early deportation, arguing that he continues to be an Indian citizen, a government official has told NDTV.
Mehul Choksi — who was caught in Dominica last week while trying to move to Cuba to escape extradition to India — is attending the trial via video-conference. He is currently at a hospital, being treated for his injuries his lawyers say he sustained during the alleged kidnapping from Antigua.
His team — Queen’s Counsels Justin Simon and John Carrington — is arguing that he had been abducted and brought to Dominica. If the court accepts the argument, he will be sent back to Antigua, where he had obtained citizenship and escaped before he could be brought to book in India.
Antigua, though, has said he should be deported straight to India from Dominica after it became known that he had skipped the country. In both nations — Antigua and Dominica — the opposition parties have accused the ruling parties of collaborating with Mehul Choksi.
An eight-member multi-agency team, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate — is in Dominica for Choksi’s extradition. The government has also sent its High Commissioner from Trinidad & Tobago to assist the officials.
An official of the Union Home Ministry has told NDTV that India is of the view that Mehul Choksi has acquired Antigua citizenship on basis of false declarations “and we have been opposing it”.
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.
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.