Mehul Choksi, the Indian-born Diamond dealer has been described by a government official as being bad for the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program or CIP.
Lionel Max Hurst, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister was the one who made that claim.
“Choksi has been bad news for our CIP program because it is not intended to shield anyone who is accused of crimes from answering to those crimes in the jurisdiction from which they come”, Hurst told reporters during the weekly Cabinet briefing
It is largely believed that Choksi’s Antiguan citizenship; which he obtained by investment, has shielded him from being extradited to India to answer fraud charges
Choksi is a key accused in the 2-billion-dollar Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case.
“Choksi has used our generosity and our fairness in order to advance his position and to escape the law in India”, Hurst said
The diamantaire who is now said to be ailing received actually Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in 2017 and one year later was wanted by the Indian government for these charges which he vehemently denies. It is said that he fled his home country in 2018.
Hurst said situations like these demands that the government take care “in ensuring that no one with a criminal record becomes a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda”
Additionally, Hurst said robust due diligence was conducted on Choksi before he was granted citizenship
“In the case of Choksi before he became a citizen, it was said both in the application as well as in the police report that he was wanted for nothing. There was no red notice or anything of the sort on Choksi. But after we had issued him with citizenship and he had gotten a passport, this notice emerged and we have said that it is not the fault of the CIU in Antigua and Barbuda, but rather the fault of the Indian police,” Hurst added.
“And we have the record to show that they did, in fact, give Choksi an all clear, when in fact there seem to have been something pending against him. But all the information which we had received prior to issuing him our citizenship and passport, showed that he had not committed any crimes,” he said
Last week a Red Corner Notice against Choksi was withdrawn and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has appealed to the Commission for Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) to restore it.
A Red Notice, according to the Interpol, is “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action”.
In a statement on March 21, the agency said, “Based on new information and serious errors in the decision, CBI is taking steps for the decision of CCF to be revised.”
India had several efforts to bring Choksi back to the country to answer charges while he was arrested in Dominica.
On May 23rd, Choksi mysteriously disappeared from Antigua and ended up in Dominica. Choksi claimed he was abducted by operatives of the Indian government and taken to Dominica on a boat.
He said he was beaten and tortured on the way. Choksi was later charged with illegal entry into Dominica. In fact, he said he was honey trapped by a woman who befriended him.
The Dominica court eventually granted Choksi bail to return to Antigua. The charges were dropped against him several months later.
Police in Antigua and Barbuda has said that they believe Choksi was in fact kidnapped. They are investigating the matter.