Fugitive Mehul Choksi who is on the run from Indian authorities and currently hiding in the Caribbean country of Antigua for being the prime accused in the two billion dollars Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case has gone missing for the last 24 hours. According to news reports, Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal claimed that the diamond trader went missing after he left his home on Monday to go for dinner at a well-known restaurant in the southern part of the island.
“Mr Mehul Choksi is missing. His family members are worried and anxious and had called me to discuss. Antigua police are investigating. Family is in the dark and worried about his safety,” said Vijay Aggarwal.
Choksi’s vehicle was found in the famous Jolly Harbour area, leading to a search operation by the cops. Local news agencies have reported that the fugitive was seen by residents driving in the Jolly Harbour area on Sunday evening. Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney was quoted as saying that the police are following up on the whereabouts of the Indian businessman. The police also sought help from the public to trace Choksi.
Mehul’s disappearance comes at a time when Antigua and Barbuda has been seriously pursuing his extradition in the court of law with the island’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne speaking to PM Narendra Modi, as recently as Monday, according to a TOI report.
After the Punjab National Bank fraud and laundering case in 2017, the duo of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled from India. While Nirav moved to the United Kingdom, his partner in crime Choksi holed up in the Caribbean Islands.
The government of India had initiated the process of their extradition two years ago, in March 2019, when the UK Police arrested Nirav Modi and he was detained for almost two years. Then Indian agencies like CBI and ED spread their arms in the Caribbean region that led to the cancellation of the Antiguan citizenship of Choksi.
In 2018, the Indian government tried to extradite Mehul Choksi under the principle of reciprocity and dual criminality but the process got tangled in the legal files. The extradition on dual criminality means that extradition is possible when it is an offence in the eyes of both requesting and requested countries.
Despite the sinister attempt of Choksi to flee to a country where India has no extradition treaty, the foreign policy of the Modi government has made his life difficult. Sensing that the noose was tightening around his neck and he could be extradited to India any day — Mehul has seemingly gone into hiding to protect himself. But with two countries and their government after him on a manhunt, it is only a matter of time before Choksi lands in the extradition net.