Antigua PM Says Opposition Supporting Mehul Choksi For Election Funding: Report

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said after mischievously accusing his administration of harbouring Mehul Choksi, the Opposition United Progressive Party is now seeking to sanitize this fugitive to get campaign funding.

Antigua PM Says Opposition Supporting Mehul Choksi For Election Funding: Report

Mehul Choksi is wanted for allegedly siphoning Rs 13,500 crore from Punjab National Bank. (File)

Antigua/New Delhi:

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Saturday accused his country's Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) of supporting Mehul Choksi, the diamond merchant wanted for the Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam in India, in order to secure campaign funding.

"After mischievously accusing my administration of harbouring Mehul Choksi, who has an Interpol Red Notice, they are now seeking to sanitize this fugitive to get campaign funding. My administration's revocation of Choksi's citizenship has been frustrated by a litigation brought against the state," Gaston Browne said in a statement.

He added: "We are determined to revoke Choksi's citizenship and to concurrently pursue his extradition to India to face criminal charges there. There has been no violation of Choksi's legal and constitutional protections, despite the decision of my administration to revoke his citizenship."

The United Progressive Party told Prime Minister Gaston Browne that every citizen is entitled to constitutional protection and due process of law.

The UPP said that Mehul Choksi, who is facing extradition to India by way of the normal legal and constitutional process, alleges that he was kidnapped and taken against his will to Dominica.

Prime Minister Browne had indicated that Dominica should deport Mehul Choksi directly to India and not return him to Antigua and Barbuda because he would be protected by the constitutional rights.

Asserting that the country fully respects the jurisdiction of the court over this matter, PM Browne said that in a globalized world, cooperation among states is required to fight and defeat criminals and to deny criminals the use of the state apparatus for protection and advancement of their criminal conduct.

"We live in a globalized world where cooperation among states is required to fight and defeat criminals and to deny criminals the use of the state apparatus for protection and advancement of their criminal conduct. That is precisely why we have and continue to encourage the government of Dominica, to make him persona non grata for illegally entering their country and to deport him to India where he is still a citizen."

The Prime Minister urged to consider the deportation of Mehul Choksi directly to India, as a form of state cooperation to arrest a fugitive.

"We respect the jurisdiction of the court over this matter. My request on behalf of the state, for Dominica to consider deporting Choksi directly to India, as a form of state cooperation to apprehend a fugitive, is perfectly acceptable," he said.

"This request for state cooperation could never be construed by any law-abiding entity, of integrity and legitimate purpose to be an "ill considered utterance," he said, adding "additionally the claim that the request undermines the rule of law, or Choksi's constitutional rights is preposterous."

If he (Mehul Choksi) is deported to Antigua, he will continue to enjoy the legal and constitutional protections of citizenship, he said.

PM Browne last week said that if Mehul Choksi flees the country, his citizenship will be revoked.

The UPP earlier accused PM Browne of "corrupting the rule of law" referring to PM Browne's request to the Dominican authorities to send Mehul Choksi to India directly and not repatriate him to Antigua and Barbados.

"It was the Gaston Browne administration that granted citizenship to Choksi. As inconvenient and embarrassing as it may be for the government, Choksi is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda - not India," the UPP said in a statement.