The Bizarre Case of the Indian Jeweller, $1.8 billion and an Antiguan Passport
Getting a second citizenship is not a guaranteed way to avoid extradition. There are many variables to consider such as the timing of the new citizenship and the country. But for this Indian national it has certainly slowed things down.
Indian diamond dealer Mehul Choksi got a Citizenship by Investment (CBI) in Antigua. Just a few months later he was accused of one of the biggest bank frauds in history. He’s accused of stealing $1.8 billion from the Punjab National Bank in India.
As you might imagine, the Indian government is keen to get him back to India to face charges there. But can his Antiguan citizenship help him to avoid extradition?
The Antiguan government has faced criticism for granting Choksi a CBI in the first place. This criticism seems unfair as no CBI country can be expected to know about crimes before charges are filed.
Antigua Wanted to Strip Citizenship and Deport
It is a huge embarrassment to Antigua and its CBI program, however. The Prime Minister of Antigua has expressed his desire to strip Choksi of his citizenship and deport him to India.
Fortunately for Choksi, the Prime Minister is not allowed to make that decision on Antigua. It must go through a court process.
The High Court in Antigua has just announced that he can stay in Antigua. He’s allowed all rights of an Antiguan citizen to challenge the extradition request and any attempt to revoke his Antiguan citizenship.
The Indian government may have shot itself in the foot in its attempts to have Choksi returned to India.
Choksi turned up in neighbouring Dominica in 2021. He arrived without his passport in the company of a woman. He was charged with entering Dominica illegally. The Antiguan government urged Dominica to deport him directly to India.
At the Dominican court Choksi claimed to have been kidnapped in Antigua by agents of the Indian government. With some justification, he said it would make no sense for him to travel to Dominica without his Antiguan passport. His lawyer said that he was ‘abducted, tortured and forcibly taken to Dominica’. He claimed the woman who accompanied him was part of an Indian intelligence team, involved in the plot to kidnap him.
The Dominican court agreed and suspended his extradition to India. He was able to return to Antigua due to his citizenship there.
Interpol Red List Removal
Choksi also managed to get Interpol to remove him from their Red list for wanted fugitives due to this incident. They agreed that being on the Red List would jeopardise his right to a fair trial and that his removal from Antigua to Dominica was an attempt to extract him.
Everyone has the right to use international laws and the laws of the country they’re into avoid extradition. This case has shown that, despite the wishes of the Antiguan government to strip his citizenship and deport him to India, that they must comply with the letter of the law. The government has now said they will do that.
As an Antiguan citizen, Choksi has demanded that the circumstances of the abduction attempt be investigated to the full extent of the law.
Choksi Manages to Avoid Extradition…..For Now
The High Court in Antigua has cemented the diamond merchant’s position in Antigua. They have issued an order which states ‘the claimant may not cause to leave or be removed from the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda without an order from the High Court after an inter-parties hearing and subject to the claimant exhausting any appeals or other legal relief provided by law.”
So, it looks like CBI has indeed managed to help Choksi avoid extradition, at least for now. Many countries refuse to extradite their own nationals, so for an iron clad way to avoid extradition it’s best to get citizenship in one of those well before any legal problems appear on the horizon.
The Choksi case is intriguing in many ways. It’ll be interesting to see the final outcome.
The Extradition Report delves into the legal methods that have been successfully used to keep people free for decades. It’s the ultimate guide for those interested in this topic. It provides clear and simple explanations for this complex area of international law.