What is the cost of flying back Mehul Choksi from Antigua?

Qatar Executive Bombardier Global 5000 charter aircraft on display at Singapore Airshow February 12, 2012 in Singapore (Source: ShutterStock)

India has hired a Bombardier Global 5000 jet belonging to Qatar Airways to bring back fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi from the Caribbean nation.

The Bombardier Global 5000 jet that has reportedly been hired to bring back fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi from the Caribbean nation of Antigua costs about Rs 8.46 lakh an hour of flying for charters, private aircraft charter companies say. The Antigua Prime Minister was quoted as saying that the jet has already been sent to get Choksi, who is wanted by India to be tried in the Punjab National Bank fraud case, back.

Given that the flight to Antigua is about 16 to 17 hours from India, the charter would have cost Rs 1.35 to Rs 1.43 crore for the aircraft for a one-way journey. The charter cost for the aircraft alone for a return trip will cost between Rs 2.7 crore to 2.86 crore.

The charges will rise further by accounting for goods and services tax (GST).

In addition, the agency hiring the aircraft will have to pay $7,000, or about Rs 5,11,000 per country, that the aircraft flies as over flying charges.  The aircraft will have to pay for the fuel stop in Madrid which will increase the cost of the charter as handling charges at that airport will also have to be paid. Lastly, there will also be a daily halting, or parking, charges of about Rs 100,000.

According to travel firm Yatra’s website, a trip between Delhi and Antigua takes 52 hours and 27 minutes with two stops -- the first in Doha where passengers have to wait for 12 and a half hours to catch an American Airlines flight to New York,  where they have to wait another 17 hours and  25 minutes before taking a 4 hour 17 minutes non-stop flight to Antigua. The fastest option is flying United Airlines which also has two stops--one in New York for 2 hours and 10 minutes before connecting to Miami where there is a wait for 2 hours and 40 minutes. The American Airlines flight from Miami to  Antigua takes 3 hours and 20 minutes. In all, this flight takes 25 hours and 21 minutes to reach Antigua from Delhi. The return journey in both options also requires multiple stops.

Private aircraft charter operators say that normally it takes between four to five days to get all the permissions from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to allow a foreign private jet to land in and leave India. The general perception among private aircraft charter operators is that the Bombardier Global 5000 hired from Qatar Executive, a unit of Gulf carrier Qatar Airways, has not been hired by the government but by some agency familiar with air travel.

Moneycontrol contacted Qatar Airways for comment. The article will be updated with its responses.

Choksi, who was born in India, was captured in Dominica earlier this week after his family reported him missing from Antigua.

Indian authorities have filed charges against Choksi, founder of the Gitanjali empire, and nephew, Nirav Modi, and others in connection with their suspected involvement in fraudulent transactions that caused losses of about Rs 14,000 crore in PNB in 2018.

Both Choksi and Modi, who was arrested in London in 2019 and is resisting extradition to India in Uk courts, have said they did no wrong.

On deporting Choksi by flight, one leading private aircraft charter operator said the government has its own fleet of private jets that are used to ferry VVIPs. “This fleet of aircraft has the range to fly non-stop between India and London. If the government wanted, it could have sent one of those aircraft to bring back Choksi. After all, the Bombardier also made a halt in Europe before reaching Dominica which is a flight that private jets for  VVIPs could have easily undertaken,” he said, asking not to be named.

Qatar Executive, the Qatar Airways unit that was set up in 2009, calls itself the leading provider of jet aircraft charter services in the Middle East and around the world.

The Global 5000 aircraft can carry up to 13 passengers and has a maximum range of 9260 km, the Qatar Executive website shows.


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