Union MoS for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam has offered the government's first response to Republic TV's sensational global scoop regarding Antigua's Prime Minister's revelations about the circumstances behind Mehul Choksi becoming an Antiguan citizen.
Speaking to Republic TV, even as the Congress launched another attack over the agencies' apparent delay in issuing the required notices and fulfilling the necessary procedures, the minister offered a staunch defence of the government, saying that for the first time in the history of India, the country is chasing criminals.
"We have brought about the necessary legislation to ensure that these people don't go scot-free, their wealth is confiscated and they are brought back to the country", Alphons added, in reference to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, which has been cleared by Parliament in the ongoing Monsoon session.
He revealed that each case is being monitored by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, and then took the attack back to the Congress, saying, "And where does this begin? This is all money lent by the previous government."
On being asked specifically about the absence of required notices that could have made it difficult for Choksi to become an Antiguan citizen, Alphons said he wasn't privy to all the information, suggesting that the Home Ministry or Finance Ministry would be better placed to answer.
"This is something that the Home Ministry or Finance Ministry can reply to, because I'm not privy to all information, but for the first time in the history of this country, this country is chasing the big-time criminals. And we're doing everything possible, even creating legislation to ensure these people are brought to books."
Almost simultaneously, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted the more unbelievable claims Mehul Choksi had made in his letter confirming he had become an Antiguan citizen:
Just a short while earlier both the Congress, as well as the government of India had posed questions to the agencies, namely the CBI and ED, over the apparent lapses mentioned by Antigua's Prime Minister Gaston Brown, who had said:
"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."
He had added:
"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."
In his statement confirming his Antiguan citizenship, Choksi had made the following statements/claims: