New Delhi: India on Monday said it is working out an arrangement with Antigua for extraditing absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who is accused in the ₹ 14,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, the biggest banking scam in the country, despite the two nations not having a formal extradition treaty.
The mechanism is based on both India and Antigua being Commonwealth countries and recognizing each other as “designated Commonwealth countries" under their respective extradition Acts.
India notified Antigua as a “designated Commonwealth country" on Friday under the provisions of its 1962 Act, while Antiguan authorities already recognize India similarly under the provisions of their 1993 Extradition Act.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda notified India as a designated Commonwealth country in 2001," said a person familiar with the matter.
A government of India gazette notification dated 3 August says that “the central government hereby directs the provisions of the Extradition Act of 1962 shall apply in the case of Antigua with effect from the date of notifying India as a designated Commonwealth country."
“These notifications constitute an extradition arrangement between India and Antigua and Barbuda under their Extradition Act of 1993 and provides the legal basis for extraditing offenders from each other’s jurisdiction," the person quoted above said.
India over the weekend handed over an extradition request to the Antiguan government to bring back Choksi, one of two key accused in the PNB fraud. Choksi is understood to be in Antigua after having obtained a citizenship last year. Choksi, who fled India in January, is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate probing the PNB fraud.
Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 included a clearance from Indian authorities as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper The Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda. It said the police clearance certificate from the Regional Passport Office in Mumbai said there was no adverse information against Choksi which would make him ineligible for the grant of a visa by Antigua. When asked about the police clearance certificate to Choksi, a spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs on Friday had said it was given on the basis of a clear police verification report available with his passport.