Hello, friends! One of the famous drug lords of the world, Pablo Escobar had very famously said, that he would prefer to die in Columbia rather than being alive in an American jail. He was that terrified of extradition. Quite an interesting word. It basically means that a person who has been accused of a crime would be handed over to another country so that the laws of that country would apply to the person. It is basically similar to Deportation.
India is trying to get people like Nirav Modi and Vijay Maliya extradited to India. Mehul Choksi has a somewhat similar and interesting story. He is trying his best to avoid extradition. His story, which is still developing, is so interesting that a Bollywood film can be made on it.
Overview of Mehul Choksi’s scam
Friends, you’d already know about the Nirav Modi and PNB Scam. Mehul Choksi is the uncle of Nirav Modi. And in the ₹13,000 crore scam in the Punjab National Bank, Mehul Choksi is also an accused. Allegedly, he had bribed some officials of the bank. Took a loan from the Bank. And left the country with the money. And did not repay the loan.
But the PNB Scam is not the only scam Mehul Choksi is accused of. Apart from it, the franchises of the Gitanjali Group, have also accused Mehul Choksi of cheating them. That he fled with crores of their money leading their businesses to be shut down. They have filed cases regarding this in the Courts.
Because of all these reasons, Choksi is facing criminal proceedings by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. Both these agencies had summoned him. To ask questions about his involvement. And when he was unavailable for a long period of time, a special court issued a non-bailable warrant against him in March 2018.
But by then, he had already fled. It’s been said that he had taken the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda by 2017. It is a small country in South America made up of islands in the Caribbean. With a population of fewer than 100,000 people. You can find it on the map.
How did Mehul Choksi take citizenship?
To put it simply, by paying a lot of money. There are around 20-30 such countries in the world, friends, where you can buy citizenship with money. It is named the Golden Visa Programme. Or the Citizenship by Investment Programme.
It happens when you invest in these countries through various means each country has different rules on the amount that needs to be invested. In some cases, you need to buy properties worth ₹2-3 crores, and then they’ll give you citizenship. In some countries, you only need to give a donation to the government and you get citizenship.
Friends, Antigua and Barbuda is a country where if you give a donation of $100,000 to the government, you will get their citizenship. It is not a large amount. You’re basically getting citizenship for only₹70-80 lakh. And you have several options at that. If you want to buy real estate instead of giving a donation, then the amount is only $200,000. As I said, it varies among the countries. In countries like Portugal, it starts somewhere around ₹4-5 crore. But Antigua and Barbuda have one of the cheapest options.
What are the benefits of getting citizenship in many countries?
It’s really simple. If you get the citizenship of these countries, you can travel to many countries around the world without needing a visa. As an Indian citizen, you need an approved visa to go somewhere. This is probably the biggest advantage.
Then you’d ask, What do these countries get? Why do they offer such citizenship? Simply, these countries get money. It is a brilliant way for these countries to get money from rich people. By offering them citizenship.
Returning to Mehul Choksi, it is said that he had applied for citizenship by November 2017. And in January 2018 he left India to go to this country. And he hasn’t returned since. Friends, if you look at this from the perspectives of these countries, these countries obviously want, as we discussed, that rich people would come and they’d get money. But at the same time, no country would want to tarnish its reputation.
These countries wouldn’t want the criminals and the corrupt people around the world to opt for their Citizenship by Investment schemes and get the citizenship of their country. Obviously, it concerns the reputation of these countries.
Mehul Choksi and Antigua
So the Government of Antigua is not very pleased to gave Mehul Choksi in their country. For this reason, on 14th October 2019, the Antiguan government had said that they are revoking the citizenship of Mehul Choksi. Canceling it. They claimed that Mehul Choksi has wilfully hidden crucial facts and so they are canceling the citizenship.
But the story isn’t so simple, friends. It doesn’t end here. Mehul Choksi filed a complaint in the court of Antigua. He filed a plea that his citizenship should not be revoked or canceled. This matter went for trial in the court of Antigua. The decision of the Government of Antigua wasn’t final.
Currently, it is still pending in the court of Antigua. The Indian government says that Mehul Choksi was not issued a passport surrender certificate. And so he is still an Indian citizen. But it is something that can be decided by the courts only. Because the lawyers of Mehul Choksi may argue that according to the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, it is clearly mentioned in Section 9, once a person gets foreign citizenship, he ceases to be an Indian citizen.
Mehul Choksi and Dominica
So let’s see what the court decides. But something happened in the last month that shocked everyone. Something bizarre happened. On 23rd May it was reported, that Mehul Choksi was suddenly and mysteriously missing from Antigua and Barbuda. And on 24th May, he was found in Dominica.
Dominica is another Caribbean country approximately 100-200 km from Antigua. It is also an island nation. When he was found in Dominica, the matter went to their court. The Dominican government issued a statement where they claimed that they’re trying to ascertain the citizenship status of Mehul Choksi. And on that basis, they will decide, where he should be deported to.
If he is a citizen of Antigua, he’d be deported to Antigua. Else he would be deported to India. The Antiguan Prime Minister asked the Dominican government to deport him to India directly. Obviously, the Indian government and India at large want this too. That he should be deported directly to India from Dominica.
But here too, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Mehul Choksi testified in front of the magistrate that he was actually kidnapped. And he was brought to Dominicaby being kidnapped. For an interview with a “high-ranking” Indian politician. And for some unknown reason, the interview could not happen.
Following which he was taken into police custody, and is being mistreated by the police. That’s what he claims. His lawyers claim that he was honey-trapped. Some woman honey-trapped him to get him to Dominica. And that’s how reached the island. His lawyers state that Mehul Choksi does not feel ‘safe’ in the jail. And so he needs to be deported to Antigua immediately.
Some photos emerged that, allegedly, show the injury marks on his body. His lawyers say that this honey-trapping or the kidnapping was done by the joint efforts of the Antiguan and Indian governments to trap him so that the process of extradition can be smoothly carried out by Dominica. Because it was getting quite complicated in the Antiguan courts. This is what Mehul Choksi’s lawyers have to say.
Mehul Choksi and Dominican opposition leader
And this version of the story is being supported by the Dominican opposition leader. This is the politician, Lennox Linton. He has alleged that all the three governments, Indian, Antiguan, and Dominican, were involved in the plan to kidnap Choksi. Since he is the opposition leader in his country, he will be against his government.
But our story has a second version as well that is even more interesting. It was reported by ANI and an East Caribbean news website, Associate Times. They claim that Mehul Choksi’s brother has promised to help the election campaign of the Dominican opposition politician. Giving him political funds. And in return, he wants the opposition politician to be in the favour of Mehul Choksi. And support Mehul Choksi’s version of the story.
Now the politics become International Politics because the Antiguan Prime Minister also claims that between Mehul Choksi and Linton’s political party, United Progressive Party, there are some links. Obviously, Mehul Choksi and his lawyers deny having any links with the UPP. But the Antiguan Prime Minister claims that the new lawyer he hired is a well-known member of the UPP.
What of the kidnapping and honey-trapping elements?
So the question that arises now friends, if the second version of our story is correct, what of the kidnapping and honey-trapping elements?
Indian investigative agencies believe that this whole story of kidnapping and honey-trapping is completely made up by Mehul Choksi. It’s fabricated. Mehul Choksi wanted to leave Antigua and go to another country because of the way the court proceedings were progressing, it was evident that he would lose the case. And his extradition process was about to be completed. That’s why he wanted to leave Antigua and go to another country.
But he couldn’t leave the country simply. Because Interpol has issued Red Corner Notice against him. For now, the story is stuck in the Dominican court. If Mehul Choksi can prove in the court that he was actually kidnapped from Antigua and brought to Dominica against his will, the chances are high that he will be deported to Antigua from Dominica.
But if he cannot prove it, he may even be deported to India. This will be good news for India. On 3rd June, a team of 8 officers from India returned from Dominica after trying to bring Mehul Choksi back to India. They, unfortunately, returned without him. Because their High Court hasn’t decided anything yet. The current status is that the Dominican High Court has adjourned the hearing of this case till 14th June. The next hearing will be on 14th June. And then we’ll get the next updates on this case.
It will be very interesting to see how it shapes up. Because this story, as we discussed, is no less interesting than a Bollywood film. Someone may even make a movie on this eventually. I hope you found this post informative.