GLOBAL SCOOP: Antigua PM Confirms Mehul Choksi's Presence And Assures Cooperation To India

Politics

Republic TV has spoken to the Antigua Prime Minister who has confirmed the presence of absconding scamster Mehul Choksi in the country and has assured cooperation to India

Written By Ankit Prasad | Mumbai | Updated On:

Following reports citing a local Antiguan newspaper which claimed that Mehul Choksi had taken citizenship of Antigua in November 2017 and an oath of allegiance on January 15, the  CBI had on July 25 written to authorities in the Caribbean nation seeking whereabouts of the PNB fraud-accused Choksi. Republic TV then spoke to Antigua PM Gaston Browne who, sensationally, not only confirmed Choksi's presence but also elaborated on the notices issued regarding the absconding fraudster and the circumstances behind his citizenship application.

Key points of what Antigua PM Gaston Browne said to Republic TV:

On whether Antigua would cooperate with Indian Agencies over Choksi:

"We have an obligation to cooperate and we will cooperate."

"Now that he's a citizen, it makes it a little more complicated in that the application will take some time. And we don't have an extradition treaty with India. But whatever we can do, we will."

On Antiguan citizenship being extended to Choksi:

"I want to make it abundantly clear that when the gentleman was extended citizenship there was no Interpol Red Corner notice on him. The government of India did not file any such notice. So he applied just like any ordinary citizen, satisfied the due diligence requirement and became a citizen of this country."

On Choksi applying for citizenship despite being fraud-accused:

"When the gentleman applied for citizenship there was no derogatory information on him. Ordinarily what the government of India should have done was to issue an Interpol Red Notice and an International alert. The reality is Mr Choksi was able to leave India and travel to United States and I am quite sure that if the United States had information about his alleged wrongdoing, that they would have cooperated with the Indian Government to send him back to India. So I can't see any of your media organisations in India or your government, for that matter, trying to hold my government responsible."

On attempts by India to prevent Choksi taking up citizenship of a foreign country:

"There are different programs that exist in different countries and clearly the gentleman knew that he was in trouble and decided to apply for citizenship. While the government of India may not have been as nimble as it ought to have been and disseminate the information about the gentleman."

READ | CBI Seeks Information About Mehul Choksi's Whereabouts From Antigua

Here's the full transcript of the telephonic conversation with Antigua PM Gaston Browne:

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: HELLO?

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: MR. GASTON BROWNE.

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: YES 

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: GOOD MORNING, MR. GASTON BROWNE 

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: GOOD MORNING.

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: GOOD MORNING SIR, MY NAME IS NIRANJAN AND I AM THE EDITOR AT AN INDIAN NEWS STATION CALLED REPUBLIC TV AND I AM CALLING YOU REGARDING THE STORY OF MR. MEHUL CHOKSI SIR. I JUST HAD ONE QUESTION FOR YOU. BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA IS PURSUING THE STORY OF MEHUL CHOKSI AND IF THE INDIAN AGENCIES PURSUE THE CASE WITH ANTIGUA, I WANTED YOUR OPINION ON WHETHER YOUR GOVERNMENT WOULD COOPERATE.

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: YES. WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO COOPERATE AND WE WILL COOPERATE. I WANT TO MAKE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT WHEN THE GENTLEMAN WAS EXTENDED CITIZENSHIP, THERE WAS NO INTERPOL RED NOTICE ON HIM. THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA DID NOT FILE ANY SUCH NOTICE. SO HE APPLIED JUST LIKE ANY ORDINARY CITIZEN, SATISFIED THE DUE DILIGENT REQUIREMENT AND BECAME A CITIZEN OF THIS COUNTRY. SO NOW THAT HE'S A CITIZEN, IT MAKES IT A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED IN THAT THE APPLICATION WILL TAKE SOME TIME. AND WE DO NOT HAVE AN EXTRADITION TREATY WITH INDIA, BUT WHATEVER WE CAN DO, WE WILL STAND UP TO THE CHALLENGES TO COOPERATE WITH THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT AND WORK TO DO SO. 

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: MR BROWNE, A REQUEST FOR RED CORNER NOTICE IS PENDING AS YOU MENTIONED WITH THE INTERPOL, MAYBE GRANTED SOON IN INDIA'S FAVOUR AND IF IT IS GRANTED WILL YOUR GOVERNMENT ACT?

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: WELL AS I SAID TO YOU, WE ARE COMMITTED TO ACTING IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS. THIS IS A MATTER FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, AS YOU ARE FULLY AWARE. SO I DON'T WANT TO MAKE ANY SPECIFIC ANNOUNCEMENT AT THIS POINT. I BELIEVE THAT A MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND CERTAINLY THE VARIOUS LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WILL HEAR THE MATTER AND I BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL COMMUNICATE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA IN COURT.

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: CAN YOU CONFIRM WHETHER THERE HAS BEEN ANY SORT OF OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION FROM THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT WITH YOUR GOVERNMENT, MR BROWNE?
 
GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: WELL, I AM AWARE THAT THE MATTER WAS BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT DID WRITE TO US TO FIND OUT THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE GENTLEMAN AND IT WAS CONFIRMED THAT HE DID COME TO ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA AND THAT HE MAY STILL BE IN THE ISLAND. AGAIN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT WILL DEAL WITH THE MATTER. 

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: ONE LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, MR BROWNE BECAUSE MEHUL CHOKSI IS WANTED FOR A 2 BILLION DOLLAR FRAUD IN INDIA. SO PRIMA FACIE WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THIS MAN TRYING TO TAKE CITIZENSHIP IN ANTIGUA TO TRY AND YOU KNOW TO MOVE FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER BECAUSE THAT'S AN ADVANTAGE THAT HE HAS- HE CAN SHIFT BETWEEN 132 COUNTRIES. 

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: JUST LIKE I SAID TO YOU WHEN THE GENTLEMAN APPLIED FOR CITIZENSHIP THERE WAS NO DEROGATORY INFORMATION ON HIM. ORDINARILY WHAT THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA SHOULD HAVE DONE WAS TO ISSUE AN INTERPOL RED NOTICE AND AN INTERNATIONAL ALERT. THE REALITY IS MR CHOKSI WAS ABLE TO LEAVE INDIA AND TRAVEL TO UNITED STATES AND I AM QUITE SURE THAT IF THE UNITED STATES HAD INFORMATION ABOUT HIS ALLEGED WRONGDOING, THAT THEY WOULD HAVE COOPERATED WITH THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT TO SEND HIM BACK TO INDIA. SO I CAN'T SEE ANY OF YOUR MEDIA ORGANISATIONS IN INDIA OR YOUR GOVERNMENT FOR THAT MATTER, TRYING TO HOLD MY GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE.

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: ABSOLUTELY... 

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: THERE ARE DIFFERENT PROGRAMS THAT EXIST IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES AND CLEARLY THE GENTLEMAN KNEW THAT HE WAS IN TROUBLE AND DECIDED TO APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP. WHILE THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AS NIMBLE AS IT OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN AND DISSEMINATE THE INFORMATION ABOUT THE GENTLEMAN... SO ON THE BASIS, WE HAVE TO FOLLOW THE LAW, THIS IS A COUNTRY OF LAWS.

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: YES AND, I REALLY APPRECIATE THE STAND THAT YOU ARE TAKING. I THINK IT WILL ALSO BE APPRECIATED BY THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT. 

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: NOT BECAUSE WE ARE A SMALL ISLAND (INAUDIBLE). WE HAVE COOPERATED WITH UNITED STATES, THE UNITED KINGDOM AND OTHER COUNTRIES.  AND YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE LEGAL PROCESS...

NIRANJAN NARAYANASWAMY, EDITOR: YES, DO YOU REMEMBER MEETING MEHUL CHOKSI. HAVE YOU MET MR. CHOKSI, MR BROWNE AT ANY POINT OF TIME DURING HIS STAY IN ANTIGUA? 

GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA: I DON'T KNOW THE MAN. I NEVER HAD ANY DEALINGS WITH HIM. 

Watch the full phone conversation with Antigua PM Gaston Browne in the video above.

Shortly after the newsbreak, Mehul Choksi put out a statement via his lawyers. In his statement, Choksi confirms Republic TV's scoop, and states/claims the following:

  • I lawfully applied to be a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment program. My application was approved.
  • My application was motivated by my desire to expand my business interest in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries.
  • I am still in a state of convalescence (following receiving medical treatment in the USA in Jan 2018). I have decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda.

 

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