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Delhi:

A report by India Today claims that the Antiguan authorities have ruled out the immediate extradition of Mehul Choksi. The fugitive economic offender is currently living in Antigua, a Caribbean country after acquiring its’ citizenship.

Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi were accused of allegedly cheating Punjab National Bank (PNB) for Rs 14,000 crore with the help of some of its own officials through the issuance of fraudulent letters of undertaking. They both had fled India in January 2018 right before the scam was unearthed. India was pursuing their extradition through legal channels and had revoked the passports of the duo, within months of the scam coming to light. Now, reports have emerged that Choksi has relocated to Antigua while Nirav Modi is in London.

Earlier this month, Choksi had surrendered his Indian passport to the Indian High Commission in Guyana. Two days prior to that, the SBI had issued a notice to Choksi, demanding repayment of an outstanding loan up to Rs 405 Crore. This was a new revelation in the case since SBI had denied any direct involvement with Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi.

The diamantaire had obtained his Antiguan citizenship before he fled the country. Choksi was granted citizenship under the Antiguan government’s controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). This allows businessmen to avail citizenship of the island in exchange for investments worth US$15,00,000.

Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne had claimed during his budget speech last year had said that CIP initiative had raised US$300 million during 2017. That was equivalent to about 20 percent of the Antiguan GDP. The Browne administration had also promised to increase CIP revenues in coming years. The CIP along with tourism contributes to 60 percent of the total GDP of Antigua.

That was equivalent to about 20 percent of the Antiguan GDP. The Browne administration had also promised to increase CIP revenues in coming years. The CIP along with tourism contributes to 60 per cent of the total GDP of Antigua.

According to Mail Today, CIP has been at the centre of negotiations between India and Antigua. Mail Today reported that Antiguan representatives have been bringing up the concerns of negative impact on profits made through CIP if Antigua had to extradite the Indian businessman.

The latest data suggests that “Indians contribute only one percent of the profit earned through this scheme”.

The Browne administration had promised to take up the CIP revenues in coming years which constituted as much as 25 percent of the country’s GDP in 2015.

According to official data, the CIP along with tourism contributes to 60 percent of the total GDP of Antigua.

Mail Today has learnt that the Antiguan representatives have been bringing up “the concerns of negative impact on profits made through CIP if Antigua had to extradite the Indian businessman within a year of awarding him the citizenship through CIP”.

The latest data suggests that Indians account to only one percent of the profit earned through this scheme.

India’s High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam who also additional responsibility Antigua and Barbuda is in charge of holding negotiations with Antiguan authorities seeking speedy extradition of Choksi. He has at least personally handed over two formal extradition requests to the representatives of Antigua.

He had held closed-door meetings with PM Browne, Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin and permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs Anthony Liverpool.

“The Browne administration has assured every possible assistance to the Indian authorities, but it is also true that every time the high commissioner holds meeting with the Antiguan government representatives, he is confronted with a question about the possible damage to the CIP initiative and possible ways to compensate it,” a source familiar with the developments in Antigua told India Today TV.

The Antiguan citizenship also gives Choksi the liberty to travel visa-free to over 130 countries. However, after the red corner notice was published, his movement has been restricted.

Choksi’s extradition case is pending with the Antiguan courts and the next hearing is on February 22, 2019. Choksi had separately approached the court challenging the legality of Section 9(4) of the Extradition Act of Antigua.

if Choksi loses the legal battle, the extradition case against him will be initiated and preceded separately.

The Indian authorities are pushing for the extradition after tasting success in extraditing AgustaWestland key accused Christian Michel Rajiv Saxena and UPA era aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar. These extraditions took five years of negotiations and extraordinary cooperation from the UAE.

The government is under pressure with elections around the corner and BJP leaders making public statements claiming that the current government would bring back Choksi like those brought from the UAE.

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