Expedite India’s red notice requests, CBI tells Interpol
Rishi Kumar Shulka, the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) , on a recent visit to Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France, is believed to have asked the international police organisation to expedite India’s “red notice” requests against high profile fugitives, a CBI officer familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Shukla, the officer said, asked Interpol’s senior functionaries to take a decision on the red notice requests from India for about a dozen top economic offenders including Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara, his brother Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, and the latter’s wife Dipti Chetan Sandesara; Winsome group promoter Jatin Mehta, his wife Sonia and son Suraj Mehta; and controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
The director travelled to Lyon in the second week of April to attend the annual conference of the National Central Bureaus (NCBs). The NCBs are the Interpol’s zonal offices in 194 member countries. In India, it is run from the CBI’s headquarters.
The CBI director also raised concerns over Interpol frequently entertaining the pleas of these high-profile economic offenders, who approach it with false claims of being chased by Indian agencies for “political reasons” or about “human rights violation”, the officer added.
For example, former cricket administrator Lalit Modi, Zakir Naik, and diamantaire Mehul Choksi were able to stall the red notice requests against them by sending such representations to Interpol. The international police body issued a global arrest notice against Choksi last year, but this took a lot of convincing; it rejected the request for a notice against Lalit Modi.The request regarding Naik is still pending.
The red notice requests against these fugitives have been pending for months, which, according to an official at the Enforcement Directorate who asked not to be named, gives them an opportunity to freely travel from one country to another, launder money or destroy evidence against them.
“We basically conveyed to Interpol that some of these fugitives have fled with billions of dollars of public money, and charge sheets have been filed against them, so Interpol should quickly issue red notice against them so that they can be tracked and brought back to India to face a court of law,” a second CBI officer said on condition of anonymity.
The Sandesaras, currently residing in Albania, are wanted in connection with an over-₹ 5,000 crore bank fraud involving their group Sterling Biotech Ltd, while Jatin Mehta and his family fled to St Kitts and Nevis after defrauding banks of over ₹6,000 crore.
The Sandesaras’ relative Hiteshkumar Narendrabhai Patel was recently nabbed in Albania and agencies are trying to get him extradited from there.
Currently, Indian agencies including the CBI, ED, and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence are pursuing around 50 fugitives – mostly economic offenders – living abroad, through red notices, extradition requests and look out circulars.
These include Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Neeshal Modi, Mehul Choksi, Sandesaras, Lalit Modi and European arms-deal brokers Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.
At least 16 extradition requests were pending in UAE, UK, Belgium, Italy, Egypt, US and Antigua and Barbuda against various accused persons. “Efforts are being made for securing presence of these accused in the country by way of issuance of LoC , RCN (Red Corner Notice) and extradition requests,” minister of state Gen (retired) V K Singh said in parliament earlier this year.
A third CBI officer who asked not to be named said that Interpol has, in the past, expressed helplessness in immediately responding to red notice requests by member-countries due to allegations that the system was being misused for political, religious and military reasons or for curbing freedom of expression.
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