AG says extradition instrument exists as high-ranking Indian diplomat visits

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Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin has said that an extradition arrangement may already exisit between Antigua and Barbuda and India.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said recently that no such treaty exists in relation to fraud accused Mehul Choski, the Indian billionaire who is wanted in his native land.

However, in a release today the government indicated that the AG “subsequently informed that research by his legal team had uncovered the existence of a Statutory Instrument No 34/2001  the Extradition Designated (Commonwealth Countries) (Amendment Order)made by the Minister under Section 7 of the Extradition Act 12/1993 which expressly brings India under the ambit of bilateral extradition arrangements.”

Prime Minister Browne met earlier in the afternoon with High Commissioner of India H.E. V. Mahalingam  to discuss a possible resolution to the case of Choksi.

High Commissioner Mahalingham flew into Antigua yesterday on the instructions of his Government in order to engage the authorities of Antigua and Barbuda on the Choksi case.

According to release, the high commissioner sought the cooperation of the Antigua and Barbuda authorities in detaining Mr. Choksi and revoking his citizenship.

A formal request for the extradition of Mr. Choksi is expected to be made by India shortly through diplomatic channels.

In the discussion, “PM Browne was at pains to point out that the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has carried out thorough due diligence checks on Mr. Choksi, but that the due diligence process had been completed before any charges were instituted against him. In fact, it was not clear that, up to the time of the meeting, the Indian authorities had yet put out an Interpol Red Notice in relation to Mr. Choksi.

It was emphasized to High Commissioner Mahalingham that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, despite a profound willingness to help, faced severe legal challenges on both requests presented by the high commissioner.

PM Browne reportedly explained that the citizenship of Mr. Choksi could only be revoked with cause, based on whether or not Mr. Choksi had made false assertions or made material omissions of relevant facts during the citizenship application process. He further pointed out that going the route of extradition also presented legal difficulties because India was omitted from the list of states parties under the Commonwealth Extradition Act 2000, where only half the current Commonwealth membership was listed. In effect, this meant that the legal basis for extradition between both countries was non-existent.

“Browne, as well as his ministers, emphasized the willingness of Government to cooperate with India and urged the Indian authorities to collaborate fully especially in the provision of irrelevant information on the Choksi case” the release stated.

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