Mehul Choksi Says Applied For Antigua Citizenship For "Business Interest"

Mehul Choksi Says Applied For Antigua Citizenship For

NEW DELHI: Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi has said in a statement that his application for citizenship of Antigua was driven by the desire to "expand his business" in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel to 130 countries.

Asserting that he had lawfully applied to be a citizen of Antigue under the "Citizenship by Investment programme", Mr Choksi said, through his lawyer, "My application is motivated by my desire to expand my business interest in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries." The statement was put out following a media report that he has left Antigua for another country.

Choksi was granted Antigua citizenship in November. He left India in the first week of January and took an oath of allegiance as a citizen of Antigua on January 15. Days later, on January 29, the CBI filed a case and started investigating Choksi and his nephew, celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, over a Rs. 13,500 crore fraud that involved fake guarantees in the name of India's second-largest government bank PNB, or Punjab National Bank, to facilitate overseas loans.

India has cancelled the passports of both Choksi and Nirav Modi.

Choksi claimed he left India in January for medical treatment in the US.

"Having received treatment I am still in a state convalescence. That being the case I have decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda, the country of my citizenship, and to abide by the laws of the country, as is the duty of every citizen," said the 59-year-old businessman.

Sources say when Choksi applied for citizenship last year, authorities in Antigua had asked India to give details of any cases against him. At the time, there were none.

Officials believe Choksi's actions show he had planned his escape route knowing the scam would explode after the retirement of the PNB employee who had helped him with fake guarantees.

Antigua is among the many tax havens in the Caribbean and has no extradition treaty with India, which makes it harder to chase the runaway diamond businessman.

Choksi has refused to return to India, saying he fears "mob-lynching".