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India asks Antigua to extradite Mehul Choksi

Mehul Choksi

New Delhi: Amid confusion over clearance certificate to Mehul Choksi, India has handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of the alleged economic offender, who has obtained citizenship of the Caribbean nation.

It was learnt that a delegation from India was sent to Antigua few days ago to pursue the authorities there to extradite Choksi. “The team met the Foreign Ministry officials of the island nation yesterday (Saturday) and handed over the request to extradite Choksi to India,” an official source said.

Choksi is one of the alleged masterminds of the $2 billion scam in state-run Punjab National Bank and is an uncle of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi. He is wanted in India by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate probing the fraud, the biggest banking scam in the country.

As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared his citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application. Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. The CBI had sent its request to the Ministry of External Affairs for extradition of Choksi.

Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).

It said the police clearance certificate (PCC) from the Regional Passport Office in Mumbai said that there was no adverse information against Choksi which would render him ineligible for grant of travel facilities, including visa for Antigua and Barbuda.

When asked about the PCC to Choksi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs had said it was given on the basis of a clear police verification report (PVR) available on his passport.

Under the Citizenship by Investment Program of Antigua and Barbuda, a person can take their passport on a minimum investment of $1,00,000 in the NDF investment fund.

Choksi and his companies allegedly availed of credit from overseas branches of Indian banks using the fraudulent guarantees of PNB given through letters of undertaking (LoUs) and letters of credit issued by the Brady House branch which were not repaid, bringing liability on the state-run bank, the officials have said.

An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks having branches abroad to grant short-term credit to the applicant.

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