Abhishek Sharan IN MUMBAI and
Vijay Tagore IN LONDON
♦ ED asks HC to revoke Choksi’s right to legal defence because of his flagrant abuse of Indian law
♦ HC asks JJ doctors to decide by July 9 whether fugitive diamond trader is fit to travel to India
♦ Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Alfonso Browne says he will soon lose his citizenship.
Fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi seemed to be running out of options on Monday as the Enforcement Directorate, the Bombay High Court and the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda –where he is holed up — began taking steps to bring him to justice in India.While Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Alfonso Browne said his law enforcement agencies are only waiting for Choksi to exhaust his legal remedies before extraditing him to India, the Bombay High Court gave JJ Hospital specialists two weeks to submit a report on whether he is fit to travel to Mumbai to stand trial.
In another blow to Choksi, who is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,500 crore in conjunction with his nephew Nirav Modi, the Enforcement Directorate told the high court that Choksi’s right to legal defence should be withdrawn because of his flagrant abuse of Indian law.
Talking to journalists, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said that his country will revoke Choksi’s citizenship, acquired under a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) and send him back to India. “We will not harbor those involved in the financial crimes,” the prime minister said.
An Antigua court has scheduled the case for next month by when the government hopes for a resolution in the matter.
The noose tightened around Choksi back in Mumbai too with the ED quoting a Supreme Court observation [‘Subhash Popatlal Dave versus the Union, 2012] , wherein it had refused to hear those who have evaded the process of law and the high court asking Choksi’s lawyer to submit his client’s health report to JJ doctors. The doctors have been asked to submit their opinion in a sealed envelope by July 9.
Choksi, who has been in Caribbean islands from early last year, told a local news channel recently that his doctors have advised him to avoid travel. He also claimed that he did not flee India but left the country for a heart surgery. “I will return to India as soon as I am fit to travel,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda prime minister’s remarks match his Foreign Minister E P Chet Greene’s position on Choksi. Chet Greene has previously told Mumbai Mirror that his government’s Citizenship by Investment Programme is not for “the scoundrels of the world.”
On Monday, Greene was travelling and had no immediate update on Choksi but said his government’s determination to get the fugitive extradited cannot be questioned. “Choksi has filed a court case. We’ve to allow for the due process. He has a matter before court and we said to the Indian government that criminals have fundamental right to go to court and defend their position. But I can assure you that after he has exhausted all of his legal options, he will be extradited,” said Prime Minister Browne.
— With agency inputs
Choksi feeling – Bangalore Mirror