There is a very strong possibility that Mehul Choksi, a prime accused in the US$ 2 billion PNB scam, may be extradited to India well before the 2019 general elections, as the island country of Antigua and Barbuda, where Choksi is presently staying, is moving fast to send him back.
With the imminent threat of being extradited to India hanging on his head, Choksi has challenged the Antigua and Barbuda government’s “proposed” move. His lawyer, Dr David Dorsett recently filed a suit against the Antiguan minister responsible for external affairs, including citizenship. The matter first came up for hearing on 14 November before Justice Rita Joseph Olivetti in the High Court there and again on 12 December.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Dr Dorsett said that they challenged Section 9 (4) of Antigua & Barbuda’s Extradition Act of 1993 as they believed that it gave the Minister of Foreign Affairs virtually unlimited discretion to issue an authority to proceed.
“On 12 December, we had filed an application at the High Court to introduce an independent expert on India law which was denied by the court. We wanted the court to determine that whether the extradition request made by the Indian government based on Indian laws are valid or not to extradite someone from here. We now will move to the Court of Appeal for which the date, 22 January 2019, has been given. It is on this date that the court will decide whether the expert witness can be allowed or not. If we are not successful there, then we will approach the Privy Council”, Dorsett told The Sunday Guardian.
According to him, the Antiguan government has given an undertaking to the court that they will not proceed with any matter relating to Choksi’s extradition until the legal issues have been resolved.
Sources aware of the matter said that since the ground for extraditing Choksi was very strong, the legal system in Antigua and Barbuda was unlikely to take a sympathetic view in the matter and once the matter was decided by the Privy Council—by February-March—his extradition would then be a matter of days.
Asked about Choksi’s fugitive status in India, Dorsett said that his legal team was not concerned about what was happening in India as far as his client was concerned. “We are focused on what is happening here. We have challenged the proposed action (extradition),” he told this correspondent.
Official sources monitoring the developments in Delhi stated that Choksi was trying to stall the extradition process but they were not worried as he was only availing the legal remedies available to him under the Antiguan laws.
“This (Choksi challenging his extradition) is on expected lines. We have done our homework and have presented the complete and comprehensive details to the Antiguan government regarding the crimes committed by Choksi here. They have assured us that the due process of law will be followed in the case,” said a source here.