- Mehul Choksi was caught allegedly trying to escape to Cuba from Antigua
- Mehul Choksi entered Dominica illegally, will be easily deported: Sources
- Antigua's PM said he can be sent back directly after his capture
India will use diplomatic channels to bring back Mehul Choksi from Dominica, sources said today after a statement by Antigua's Prime Minister that the fugitive jeweler can be sent back directly after his capture yesterday.
Sources in the home ministry said India enjoys good ties with Dominica, pointing out that the government recently sent one lakh Covid vaccines free of cost to the tiny Caribbean island as part of its "Vaccine Maitri" initiative.
Since Mehul Choksi entered Dominica illegally, it will be easy to deport him to India, sources said.
Investigators are assessing options after Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne was quoted as saying that the wanted businessman should be sent back to India directly.
"We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him," Antigua News Room, a media outlet, quoted Mr Browne as telling journalists in Antigua and Barbuda.
"We will not accept him back. He made a monumental error by skipping the island," Mr Browne said, according to news agency ANI.
But Mehul Choksi's lawyer says he is no longer a citizen of India and can only be sent back to Antigua. "Moreover, there is an Antiguan High Court order against the processing of any request from India, so my understanding is that he has to be sent back to Antigua only - there is no question of him being sent to India," said Vijay Aggarwal.
The lawyer also suggested that Mehul Choksi may not have "voluntarily reached Dominica", that there was "something fishy" in the way he landed there.
Mehul Choksi, 62, was caught when he was allegedly trying to escape to Cuba from Antigua, where he had been living since 2018 after leaving India. He reportedly left Antigua and took a boat to neighbouring Dominica. With an Interpol lookout circular against him, he was caught by the police from a beach in Dominica.
Choksi was fighting two cases in Antigua related to his citizenship and his extradition to India, according to the CBI. He had fled India after taking citizenship in 2017 in Antigua, where wealthy foreigners can become citizens in exchange for investing there.
He went missing on Sunday after he was seen going to dinner in his car. His staff reported him missing after his car was found.
The diamond jeweler, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is wanted by Indian investigating agencies for allegedly swindling Rs 13,500 crore as loans from state-run Punjab National Bank using fake documents. Nirav Modi, jailed in London, is contesting his extradition to India.