In a major achievement for India, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne asserted that fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi is a "crook" and "Indian authorities have the right to come to Antigua and Barbuda to interview Choksi on his willingness to participate" in the investigation.
#WATCH Antigua & Barbuda PM Gaston Browne: Got subsequent information that Mehul Choksi is a crook, he doesn't add value to our country. He will be deported ultimately after he exhausts appeals, Indian officials are free to investigate based on his willingness to participate. pic.twitter.com/FbAaIml0Fv
— ANI (@ANI) September 25, 2019
Speaking to news agency ANI on Wednesday, PM Browne said that the country is not interested in having Choksi in Antigua and Barbuda as he "brings no value to the country". He assured India that Choksi will ultimately be deported to India after he would have exhausted all of his appeals.
PM Browne said, "There is no decision that could be taken to extradite him. However, we are not interested in having Mehul Choksi in Antigua and Barbuda. He really brings no value to the country...We got subsequent information that Mehul Choksi is a crook. What I can assure you is that ultimately he will be deported after he would have exhausted all of his appeals...It is just a matter of time."
When asked if Indian officials can interrogate Choksi in Antigua and Barbuda, PM Browne said, "Indian authorities have the right to come to Antigua and Barbuda. In fact, there are several officials who would have visited Antigua and Barbuda already on the issue. We have a visa-free arrangement for officials and diplomats so they can come and if they wish to interview Choksi based on his willingness to participate. It has nothing to do with my government."
Choksi is accused of cheating state-run PNB to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore in alleged collusion with his nephew Nirav Modi. The billionaire diamantaire escaped to Antigua in the first week of January 2018. The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January 2018, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies.
The fugitive diamantaire was granted citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda on January 15, 2018. On June 17, Choksi had submitted an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, stating that he is residing in Antigua and was willing to co-operate in the investigation into the PNB scam.
For his part, Choksi has always maintained that the charges against him are false.