(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, broke his silence in an interview with an Indian journalist yesterday regarding Indian fugitive Mehul Choksi who received Antiguan citizenship via the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
The prime minister admitted that he accepts that there might be cause to renege on Choksi’s citizenship.
“My government will cooperate fully with the India government. So on the basis that there are grounds for revocation [of citizenship], which I believe there are, certainly we would proceed with the revocation, but that in itself also must go through due process,” Browne said.
However, the prime minister explained that his government will not rush to any decision. He sighted that up to the time of the interview, the government of India was yet to post anything official with the international police agency, INTERPOL.
He said that INTERPOL is one of the main agencies his government utilises when determining the suitability of applicants for citizenship.
Browne reiterated that his government’s claim that at the time that Choksi applied for citizenship, there was no derogatory information on him online. He said his government did nothing wrong and it was only after the citizenship had been granted that it surfaced that Choksi was wanted for alleged crimes in India.
He added that Choksi claims to have fled India to avoid public prosecution and since the government of Antigua and Barbuda is unaware of what the facts are at this point, it will take a measured approach in handling the situation.
Browne also made assurances that the office of the attorney general and the CIP unit are presently reviewing Choski’s application to determine whether or not there was any false information or fraud.
Mehul Choksi is an Indian billionaire businessman wanted in connection with an alleged US $2.1 billion fraud scandal known in his home country as the Punjab National Bank Fraud Case. The diamond tycoon and owner of the Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery company with 4,000 stores in India, was granted Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in November 2017. Several reports surfaced online this week, stating that the wanted man is presently in Antigua.
Since the allegations came to light, the 59-year-old Choksi has hired local attorney at law Dr. David Dorsett of Watt Dorsett & Company, who issued a press release on Wednesday in which Choksi has declared his innocence.