Dominican court blocks removal of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi: Here#39;s all you need to know about extradition

Mehul Choksi (File image)

Mehul Choksi (File image)

A court in Dominica has “restrained” authorities from removing fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi from the Caribbean island country till June 2

Wanted in India in connection of a Rs 13,500-crore loan fraud in the Punjab National Bank (PNB), Choksi had gone missing from Antigua and Barbuda only to be detained in Dominica, about 100 nautical miles away, for illegal entry. After getting captured in Dominica, effort began from India to bring him back from island of escape.

However, the Dominican court has now restrained local authorities from removing Choksi from the country, throwing up another hurdle to India’s attempts to have him brought home and tried in the PNB scam.

What is the PNB scam?

PNB alleged in 2018 that a few rogue employees had issued fake bank guarantees over several years to help jewellery groups controlled by Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi to raise funds in foreign credit.

Both Modi and Choksi have denied any wrongdoing. Modi was arrested in London in 2019 and is fighting extradition to India. The Indian government has been pushing for Choksi’s extradition from Antigua and Barbuda.

What is extradition?

The extradition process enables governments to bring fugitives who have fled their country to justice. It typically is enabled by a bilateral or multilateral treaty. Some states will extradite without a treaty, but those cases are rare.

What is in an extradition treaty?

Mostly, these treaties tend to take a ‘dual criminality’ approach, classifying as extraditable all crimes that are punishable in both jurisdictions.

Who can be extradited?

The extradition depends on the agreement a country has with another country. In the case of India, it can extradite any national to a requesting country and can seek the extradition of any foreign national depending upon the treaty New Delhi has with that country, as per a News18 report.

For instance, in the case of the United States and the United Kingdom, India can transfer a citizen to that country and vice-versa.

However, with countries like France, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria and Bahrain, the treaty does not cover the extradition of nationals of either country, the report suggested.

In cases where a citizen cannot be extradited, the seeking country can request that the fugitive face prosecution in the home country for the charges for which it is pursuing extradition. However, it is possible only if the alleged crime has seen as an offence in both the countries concerned. This is known as the ‘dual criminality’ approach.

How extradition takes place?

The extradition of the accused involves an elaborate and formal process. The first step of extradition is the issuance of a warrant of arrest issued by an Indian court, according to the report.

“(I)ssuance of a warrant for arrest is only the first step in India in the detailed process of extradition of a person to India to face criminal proceedings (as also for the issuance of Interpol notices for surveillance and arrest of the accused person, once he/she is located),” said the report quoting Seema Jhingan and Monica Benjamin.

Later, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) gets involved and request extradition through its officials. There is also a provisional arrest, which has to precede the application for extradition, the report stated.

The requesting country can seek extradition within a stipulated period after the arrest. However, the accused may be released if the country did not make the extradition request in this period, it said.

Countries with which India has extradition treaties/arrangements

India has extradition treaties with 47 countries and extradition arrangements with 11 others. A treaty is a more formal framework for facilitating extradition than arrangements.

India has extradition treating with countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, Ukraine, the US, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The countries with which India has extradition arrangements are Antigua & Barbuda, Armenia, Croatia, Fiji, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Tanzania.

The Extradition Arrangements with Italy and Croatia confine to crimes related to illicit traffic in narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances owing to the fact that India, Italy and Croatia are parties to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, according to MEA.

(With inputs from agencies)