Fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi on Sunday said he has “full faith in the law and government of Antigua”, his newly adopted country, amid reports that India was preparing for his extradition.
Speaking to HT from Antigua, Choksi said the matter of his extradition is sub-judice and “yet to be disposed of” by Antiguan courts. “Undoubtedly, India is the country of my birth. But presently I am not well and not able to travel. Once I am well and able to travel, I will clear my name,” he said.
When asked about reports that an aircraft was being sent to the Caribbean to bring him to India, Choksi said, “In the past as well, fake news has destroyed my reputation and my business.”
Choksi and his nephew, diamantaire Nirav Modi, have been accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of defrauding state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) of ~13,500 crore in issuance of letters of undertaking and foreign letters of credit.
Choksi and Modi left India in the first week of January and have not returned despite repeated summons from the investigating agencies and courts. Both of them have been charged by CBI and ED.
Last July, Choksi, 59, was traced to Antigua after US authorities informed India about his travel to the Caribbean nation. Choksi, who owns Gitanjali Gems, became an Antiguan citizen under its programme that extends its citizenship in exchange for investment in the island nation. He has surrendered his Indian passport.
CBI, through the ministry of external affairs, approached Antiguan authorities asking for Choksi’s extradition. India does not have an extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda. The country’s foreign minister, EP Chet Greene, told his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj during a meeting last September that his government will cooperate with India on the extradition but refused to set a timeframe for resolving the matter.
In December, India managed to secure an Interpol Red Notice against Choksi, further tightening the case for extradition.
Choksi has maintained that due to the action of investigating agencies, which included attachment of his assets by the ED, his brand value diminished due to which he could not settle his dues.