Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who recently went missing in Antigua, has been apprehended in neighbouring Dominica -- a small island nation in the Caribbean Sea.
Interpol had issued a Yellow Notice for him, the local media reported on Wednesday, which facilitated his arrest. (The notice is issued to track missing persons.)
Choksi had been living in Antigua and Barbuda since 2018 after acquiring local citizenship. Earlier, on the run, after Indian agencies initiated multiple probes against him, he had sneaked out of the US and taken refuge in the Caribbean.
Choksi, who is wanted in India in a Rs 13,500 crore loan fraud on PNB Bank, was last seen going for dinner in his car in Antigua on Sunday. Later, his staff had reported him missing and the car was found abandoned in the harbour area. His lawyer Vijay Aggarwal had subsequently confirmed that the fugitive businessman was indeed missing. The efforts are now on to hand him over to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda. The CBI and ED, too, have been informed. Sources said he had reached Dominica by boat.
All these days the buzz was that Choksi might have landed in Cuba, another country that has no extradition agreement with India. There were sceptics, however, who felt that it would be a bad time to relocate during the Covid outbreak; the travel curbs apart, an Interpol notice was out for him, it was pointed out. But there was a contrarian viewpoint as well, that Choksi, a smooth operator, would use the pandemic as a cover to sneak into another country by sea route.
It remains to be seen how Choksi’s capture will facilitate his extradition to India; he is likely to be tried in Antigua first for violations, if any, of the local law. But the incident will surely create a deficit between him and his Antiguan hosts and Indian diplomatic circles could exert pressure to secure his custody.
While Nirav Modi is languishing in a London prison after being repeatedly denied bail and is contesting his extradition to India, Choksi had played his cards well; he had taken citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda under an investment programme.
After Choksi went missing, in a statement to the Parliament, an embarrassed Prime Minister Gaston Browne said authorities were "collaborating" with the Indian government, neighbouring countries and international police to try and locate the diamond merchant.
Mehul is already embroiled in two cases Antigua and Barbuda. One deals with his extradition to India and the other concerns revocation of his citizenship.
He has brought a celebrated lawyer from the United Kingdom to represent him in these cases.