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India expresses concern over 'citizenship by investment' schemes for economic offenders

Nirmala Sitharaman says countries must cooperate in ensuring those who are accused of economic fraud and take shelter in another country ought to face the consequences of their action.

India expresses concern over 'citizenship by investment' schemes for economic offenders
File photo of Mehul Choksi who took citizenship of Antigua after fleeing India.

New Delhi: In a strong message to countries that provide citizenship to fugitive economic offenders through investment-based schemes, India's finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has called for the need to strongly deal with such practices. 

Speaking at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Fukuoka (Japan) over the weekend, Sitharaman underscored the importance of international cooperation when it comes to dealing with economic offenders who "flee their countries to escape from the consequences of the law."

A finance ministry statement read, "(FM) drew attention to the practice permitted by many jurisdictions, which allow economic offenders to use investment-based schemes to obtain residence or citizenship to escape from legal consequences, and underlined the need to deal with such practices. She urged that closer collaboration and coordinated action were required to bring such economic offenders to face the law."

The Finance Minister also highlighted how India has taken a tough stance against economic offenders and passed a law that "provides for denial of access to courts until the fugitive returns to the country."

Mehul Choksi, wanted in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank scam, took the citizenship of Antigua under its "citizenship by Investment (CIP)" scheme.  According to the scheme, foreign clients can get citizenship by investing up to $100,000 in that country. The accused person also gets the added benefit of being free to travel to over 100 countries as is permitted to passport holders of Antigua.
The Citizenship By Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua received Mehul Choksi's application in May 2017.

In January of this year, Choksi had surrendered his Indian passport to the High Commission in Guyana. 

India is currently pursuing Choksi's return with the government of Antigua through diplomatic and legal channels and has sent an extradition request to the country.