CBI secures Interpol Red Corner against Mehul Choksi
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has managed to secure an Interpol Red Notice against fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi, in what is seen as a big boost to its efforts to bring him back to India to face trial in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud.
Choksi became a citizen of the Caribbean country Antigua and Barbuda under a programme in which a certain quantum of investment entitles an individual to citizenship.
Investigations have showed that Choksi began the process to take citizenship of the twin-island nation last year, well before he left India in the first week of January.
The fraud came out a little later.
Choksi was formally granted citizenship in November last year but took oath as an Antiguan citizen on January 15.
Choksi , who, along with his nephew, diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, who, too, is a fugitive from India, perpetrated a fraud on PNB amounting to over ?13,500 crore, according to CBI.
Neither has returned to India despite repeated summons from the investigation agencies and courts.
“In July, Choksi, 59, was traced to Antigua after US authorities informed their India counterparts about his travel to the Caribbean nation. The CBI, through the ministry of external affairs, immediately approached the Antiguan authorities asking for extradition of Choksi. The island nation has informed the Indian authorities that it would honour any legitimate request to extradite him. The process has begun,” said a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Antiguan authorities also pointed out the absence of a Red Notice against Choksi and the fact that one has now been secured means that gap has been addressed, this official added.
A lawyer for Mehul Choksi said Mehul Choksi’s legal team will work on setting aside the notice.
“This [notice] appears to have been obtained by making misrepresentations to Interpol. As we didn’t get an opportunity to represent our stand, this Red Notice has been issued. We shall be exposing the misrepresentations at various forums and we are confident that this Red Notice shall be set aside in due course,” said Sanjay Abbot.
The Red Notice is basically an appeal to all Interpol member countries to arrest the person and send him or her back to the country which requested issuance of the same.
A Central Bureau of Investigation official disputed Abbot’s version.
According to this person who asked not to be named, the notice was issued despite objections raised by Choksi who claimed that the Indian agencies were persecuting him under political pressure and he was afraid of being “lynched” in India due to hostile environment against him.
The matter went to a five-member Interpol committee’s court, called Commission for Control of Files which cleared the issuance of Red Notice after rejecting Mehul Choksi’s arguments and the notice formally published on Wednesday.
“Central Bureau of Investigation registered the case on February 15, 2018, on a complaint from Punjab National Bank against Mehul Chinubhai Choksi, managing director, M/s Gitanjali Gems Ltd and others on the allegations of cheating Punjab National Bank. After investigation, a charge sheet was filed on May 16, 2018 against Mehul Choksi and 17 other accused persons including one former managing director and two executive directors of Punjab National Bank before the Special Judge, CBI cases, Greater Mumbai for cheating Punjab National Bank to the tune of ?7080.86 crore (approx),” said Central Bureau of Investigation spokesman Abhishek Dayal.
Modi is believed to be in London and India has sought his extradition from the UK.
Central Bureau of Investigation spokesman Abhishek Dayal added that before asking Interpol to issue Red Notice against Mehul Choksi, the agency secured a non bailable arrest warrant against him as well.