New Delhi: The extradition of Mehul Choksi, one of the accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, is imminent, with the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, of which Choksi has taken citizenship, recently telling his Cabinet members that the extradition was “a question of when and not if”.
Sources based in Antigua and Barbuda told The Sunday Guardian that Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne’s assertion was based on his interaction with legal experts who told him that the grounds taken by Choksi to challenge his extradition were falling apart, one by one.
Choksi has challenged the move to extradite him to India in the court of law in Antigua and Barbuda, while making the Minister Responsible for Citizenship and the Minister Responsible for External Affairs as parties to the case.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to Steadroy Cutie Olivero Benjamin, the Legal Affairs Minister of the country, for his comment on the expected timeline of Choksi’s extradition, but did not receive any response until the time the newspaper went to the press.
On 20 September 2019, a three-judge bench of court of appeal, comprising Davidson Baptiste, Louise E. Blenman and Mario Michel, allowed Choksi and the respondent (the government) to introduce expert evidence in support of their arguments. After the case is decided by the court of appeal, Choksi has the option to move the London-based Privy Council, the country’s final court.
Choksi’s case had first come up for hearing on 14 November 2018 at the High Court of the country before Justice Rita Joseph Olivetti. His legal team, led by lawyer David Dorsett, has challenged Section 9(4) of Antigua & Barbuda’s Extradition Act 1993, stating that it gave the Minister of Foreign Affairs virtually unlimited discretion to issue an authority. Despite multiple attempts, Dorsett didn’t respond to The Sunday Guardian’s messages for his response on the story.
Interestingly, Dorsett was also the lawyer of Leroy King, the former head of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC), Antigua and Barbuda, who had challenged the government’s 2009 order to extradite him to the United States of America where he was charged in participating in a ponzi scheme.
King, after losing his case, which was heard by the Privy Council, was extradited to the US on 8 November 2019.
In November 2018, Antigua and Barbuda had voted to keep the Privy Council, based in London, as their final appellate court, rejecting the option of choosing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Trinidad in its place.
Earlier, amidst murmurs that the government of Antigua and Barbuda was involved in some back channel talks with India to “send” Choksi to India, the Antiguan government had given an undertaking in 2018 to the courts that they would not proceed to extradite Choksi until all the legal issues had been decided by the courts.