Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi's extradition process may go to court, 'delayed', says Antiguan Law Minister
Ministry of External Affairs issued a notification on August 3 saying that provisions of Extradition Act, 1962, shall apply to Antigua and Barbuda as a designated Commonwealth Country.
NEW DELHI: The extradition process of Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud scam-tainted Mehul Choksi is likely to be 'delayed' as the Director of Public Prosecution in Antigua may not be available to take up the case till August end.
Antiguan Law Minister Steadroy Benjamin told 'Republic TV' that - "It is only the Director Public Prosecution who handles these cases."
The Minister said Antiguan foreign ministry has already forwarded the request made by India for the extradition of Geetanjali Group Chairman but the matter "being so serious" only the Director of Prosecution himself will have to look into it.
India does not have any existing bilateral extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda. The Indian government is aware of the fact that Antiguan passport would allow PNB scam co-accused Choksi, visa-free travel to over 100 countries. Hence Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a notification on August 3 saying that the provisions of Extradition Act, 1962, shall apply to Antigua and Barbuda as a designated Commonwealth Country under provisions of its own Extradition Act, 1993.
Taking cognizance of a request from CBI, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs has also handed over a formal extradition request to the government in Antigua.
"Since the submission of the extradition request we have been told that they (Antiguan government) are examining the request so it is a little bit premature to react at this stage as to what their formal response is. We will have to wait and as and when there are developments," MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters here last week.
Observers suggest stage is virtually set for 'legal course' as Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne has indicated his willingness to cooperate with India on the case.
Notably, as the Law Minister has fielded questions pertaining to Mehul Choksi and he is referring to the role of 'Director of Prosecution', it is most likely that the matter may be taken up in a court of law in Antigua.
However, as Choksi is now a citizen of that country, it is also clear a 'due process of law' would have to follow.
The MEA sources said that the notification specified that the provisions of India's Extradition Act, 1962 shall apply to Antigua and Barbuda with retrospective effect from 2001 when the Caribbean nation had notified India as a designated Commonwealth Country under its extradition law.
Under the Citizenship by Investment Program of Antigua and Barbuda, a person can take their passport on a minimum investment of USD 1,00,000 in the National Development Fund. Choksi's citizenship in Antigua was cleared in November 2017 and he fled India only on January 4 this year.
He later took the oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15.