Antigua and Barbuda's Citizenship By Investment Unit (CIU) has clarified that it took all steps to ensure fugitive diamantaire and Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam accused Mehul Choksi was a 'fit and proper candidate' for the grant of citizenship as allowed under the country's Citizenship By Investment Act.
In a press release, the CIU stated that Choksi's application was received by them in May 2017 with the necessary documents required, including a police clearance certificate as required by the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship By Investment Act 2013.
"The said police clearance certificate from the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, certified that there was no adverse information against Choksi which would render him ineligible for grant of travel facilities including a visa for Antigua and Barbuda," the CIU said.
In the said statement published by Antigua Observer, the CIU has also said that that Choksi's application was subjected to stringent background checks and that the final decision was taken after results of all of these checks were received and assessed.
The CIU also revealed that they received documentation of two instances in which the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), in 2014 and 2017, opened investigations on a corporate entity owned by Choksi.
According to the statement, the CIU's review of online reports on this matter noted that the CBI indicated that Interpol had not made direct contact with them requesting information on Choksi. The CIU maintained that its background investigations do in fact included Interpol.
Furthermore, the CIU clarified that if there was an active warrant for Choksi at the time his citizenship application was being processed, the information should have already been made available to Interpol, a notification of which would have been readily accessible by the CIU and its partners.
"The warrant should have formed a part of the criminal records database in India and therefore declared in the police clearance certificate issued by the Ministry of External Affairs," the CIU release stated.
As per the statement, the CIU's investigations revealed that notice of the current investigation was first issued by Indian authorities to law enforcement on January 31, 2018.
The CIU maintained that these matters emerged well after the background vetting process, which have resulted in the August 2017 approval of Choksi's application and his subsequent registration as a citizen in November 2017.
On Monday, India had reportedly asked the Antigua and Barbuda Government to detain Choksi and prevent his movement by land, air or sea.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on a related note, had on July 25 sought the whereabouts of Choksi and written to Antiguan authorities, demanding details about him.
Choksi, who is allegedly involved in over USD 2 billion scam in the state-run PNB, has reportedly taken refuge in the Caribbean nation after moving there in July. His valid passport was revoked in February after this scam was unearthed.