New Delhi, Jan 22 (ANI): Giving up Indian passport will not lessen the chances of extradition of fugitive economic offender Mehul Choksi, although it can lengthen the process, according to former diplomats.
The move by Choksi would not also blur the hopes of bringing back other fugitives like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi to face judicial proceedings, the former diplomats said on Tuesday.
Absconding diamantaire Choksi, who has been living in Antigua for over a year, has surrendered his Indian citizenship in an attempt to avoid getting extradited to the country.
“It may become a lengthy process because some countries do not extradite their own nationals," former Foreign Secretary Shashank told ANI.
"However, in this particular case, the person (Choksi) is not originally an Antigua national. He has become a national there, hiding the information about his antecedents. There are charges against him for fraud and economic offences. This is a criminal activity in India, and if there is dual criminality in other countries also, then he will find it difficult to save himself,” he added.
He also said that India and Antigua are both Commonwealth countries and they will cooperate with each other in the process of extradition.
“Even if they don’t have an Extradition treaty but Commonwealth countries normally help each other in the criminal cases. India and Antigua both have an Extradition act so they can exchange the criminals under that but it takes time. The fact is that a criminal is a criminal and no country tries to protect a criminal," Shashank underlined.
Echoing similar views, former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said that Choksi giving up his Indian citizenship and passport has “complicated the case but it is not a big setback for the Government of India."
He said the government will have to take it up with Antigua government.
"He (Choksi) is an offender from justice. Therefore, it is the duty of the entire international community to help bring him to the justice," Mansingh said.
"We have received cooperation from the UK in the case of Vijay Mallya. Similarly we expect cooperation from the Antigua government. Therefore this episode doesn’t blur the hopes of the government to bring back other fugitives as well. It requires negotiation through the government and to persuade them with the evidences,” he added.
Talking about chances of other fugitives being brought back to India, Shashank also said: “Other economic offenders must have taken all kinds of advices from their legal advisers to escape extradition but there are elections going to happen soon in India. So any government or political party will come under tremendous pressure to get those people extradited.”
Ashok Sajjanhar, another retired diplomat, opined that Choksi giving up his Indian passport was not a setback for the Indian government, but it has become lengthy.
He also said that this development won't impact the possibilities of bringing back other fugitives like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi to face the law.
“I don’t think it is a setback for the Indian government, but the real devil is time. It will now involve more time and formalities in the process. But India is fully within its right to ask for his extradition,” he added.
"As far as Mallya is concerned, he continues to be on Indian passport and there has been rapid progress of getting him extradited to India. The government has proven without any shade of doubt that it is serious and committed to bringing back such offenders" he concluded.
Mehul Choksi and nephew Nirav Modi are kingpins of the Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud. They both fled from the country a year ago. Choksi was granted citizenship of Anitgua and Barbuda on January 15, 2018. (ANI)