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'Choksi will be repatriated': What next for fugitive businessman after arrest in Dominica?
The fugitive is now in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Dominica
Three days after diamantaire Mehul Choksi, key accused in multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, went missing from Antigua and Barbuda, he was traced in neighbouring Dominica on Wednesday evening. Speaking to THE WEEK, Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal confirmed the developments. He said: "I have spoken to his family. The family is happy and relieved that the whereabouts of Mehul Choksi are finally known. Efforts are being made to speak to him so that one can get a clearer picture on how he was taken to Dominica."
It is not immediately clear how Choksi reached Dominica. The latest missing report of the Antigua police had said that, in the evening of May 23, he left home in a car which was later recovered abandoned. Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne had expressed suspicion that Choksi could have escaped in a boat and entered Dominica illegally. "The Dominican government is cooperating with Antiguan and Indian governments. He [Choksi] will be deported from Dominica," he said, in an interview with news agency ANI. "We will not accept him back. He made a monumental error by skipping island. Dominican government and law enforcement are cooperating, and we have informed the Indian government that he will be repatriated to India," said Browne.
The fugitive is now in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Dominica, Antiguan media reported.
Choksi’s sudden disappearance had come as a setback to India's efforts to extradite him from the island nation where he had taken shelter since 2018, when the CBI and ED registered a case against him. On May 23, the Antigua police sounded an alert when Choksi went missing. After the Antiguan government confirmed that Choksi was untraceable, and the local police filed a missing report for the 64-year-old, top sources in investigating agencies said Choksi is evading arrest and they have taken note of his sudden disappearance.
The MEA was in touch with the high commission in Georgetown in Guyana, which also oversees relations with Antigua and Barbuda. Choksi's disappearance had come close on the heels of Prime Minister Browne thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his ''act of benevolence'' in generously sending COVID-19 vaccines to the Carribean countries.
Antigua offers free travel to 130 countries, and Choksi knew this well five years ago when he moved an application before the Antigua and Barbuda government for permanent citizenship in January 2017. In 2018, when the multi-crore PNB scam came to light, Choksi was already familiar with the Carribean islands, its travel destinations, rules and regulations. Predictably enough, he landed in Antigua when he left India in 2018 after he was named a key accused by CBI and ED in the multi-crore scam. He had been living in Antigua with his wife ever since.
Choksi is the uncle of Nirav Modi, the main accused in the PNB scam who is fighting an extradition case in the UK. The Indian government has been hoping that the friendly island nation will extradite Choksi first, which would give a fillip to its efforts to bring back Nirav Modi.