The police in Antigua and Barbuda are keeping watch on diamantaire Mehul Choksi and the government of the island nation will next week start vetting New Delhi’s request for his extradition to India.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda conveyed to New Delhi that the fugitive billionaire was still in the West Indies nation and the local law-enforcing agencies were “aware of his whereabouts”. It was conveyed to V Mahalingam, India’s envoy to Antigua and Barbuda, when he was in St Johns’, the capital of the tiny archipelago, earlier this week, sources in New Delhi told the DH.
Mahalingam is India’s High Commissioner to Guyana. He is also accredited as India’s envoy to Antigua and Barbuda (A&B). He visited St John’s on August 30 and met Prime Minister Gaston Browne and senior officials of the A&B government and handed over to them a fresh set of documents to buttress New Delhi’s request for extradition of Choksi, who allegedly colluded with his nephew and billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi to defraud Punjab National Bank of Rs 14,000 crore.
He was assured in St John’s that the A&B government’s Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin and Director of Public Prosecution Anthony Armstrong would meet early next week and start working on New Delhi’s request for Choksi’s extradition to India. The process got delayed as the Director of Public Prosecution was on leave and would return to work on Monday, sources said.
Mahalingam first conveyed New Delhi’s request to the A&B government in late July that the fugitive business tycoon should be detained and should not be allowed to leave the archipelago by land, air or sea. He and Manpreet Vohra, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs, visited St John’s early last month and handed over to the senior officials of the A&B government the formal request from the Government of India for Choksi’s extradition.
Though Choksi has not yet been detained, the A&B government assured New Delhi that its law-enforcing agencies were keeping watch on him.
The owner of Gitanjali Gems on July 30 moved the A&B High Court to bar the government of the country from detaining him for extradition on the request of India.India and A&B have no bilateral extradition treaty. But both New Delhi and St John’s are of the view that since India, like A&B, is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Section 7 of the country’s Extradition Act 1993 does provide a scope for acting on the request for sending back the jeweller even in the absence of a bilateral treaty.
Sources in New Delhi, however, added that even if the A&B government was keen to cooperate with the Government of India, the extradition would be possible only if the courts in the island nation cleared it.
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