Six years on, Choksi continues to elude

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Source: Sunday Guardian- The best efforts of the Indian government have failed to have any impact on fugitive Mehul Choksi who has been able to evade extradition for more than six years, after he fled India in January 2018.

His case has emerged as an example of how fugitives can evade law by fleeing to safe havens and live a new life without any fear.

To make matters worse, the Red Corner Lookout Notice (RCN) that was issued on India’s request by the Interpol, too was withdrawn in October 2022, just six days before India was supposed to host its Secretary General Jurgen Stock, who was in India for the 90th Interpol General Assembly.

Choksi had taken up the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda much before the Rs 12,000 cr Punjab National Bank scam became public and is staying within the Harbour Island area, which is a part of the Jolly Harbour village that is situated on the west coast of Antigua and Barbuda.

Delhi based government officials, who were associated in the efforts to bring back Choksi, believe that as of today, his extradition is “difficult” and has become an “insurmountable challenge”, while claiming that they have not stopped the effort to bring him back, an exercise which they said was happening at multiple levels.

According to them, the withdrawal of the RCN has been a big setback to the process and with the amount of money that Choksi has at his disposal, he has created multiple legal barriers to stop his deportation.

Apart from hiring a battery of international lawyers to stop his extradition, the 64-year-old Choksi has also engaged public relations firms and private investigators and firms to ensure that negative news about him is “controlled”. Private and independent investigators have in the past reported that Choksi had bribed local political officers, individuals and government

 officials not to take a hostile approach against him, despite the local people of Antigua and Barbuda against hosting a known fugitive on their soil.

Choksi, through his team of lawyers brought from foreign countries, has challenged the extradition order that was issued against him in the past and the matter is still pending more than two years now.

When certain media outlets revealed that Choksi was allegedly being helped by local officials and politicians to avoid being extradited to India, Choksi, through his lawyers, wrote to the Registrar of the High Court and police commissioner, calling the allegations “baseless and defamatory” and termed it as an attempt to “undermine the judicial system in Antigua and Barbuda, both at home and abroad.”

In April last year, deciding on a suit filed by Choksi, a court in Antigua and Barbuda decided that there was an obligation on the part of the defendants, the Attorney General of Antigua and the Chief of Police to carry out a thorough inquiry on Choksi’s allegation that he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda and taken to Dominica forcibly in a boat in May 2021, allegedly by people who were acting on behalf of Indian agencies.

Both the office of the Attorney General and the chief of police had termed Choksi’s claims as “frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of the court’s process”. While hearing Choksi’s plea, the court in St Johns also prohibited his removal from Antigua and Barbuda without the court’s approval and until he exhausts all his legal remedies.

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