Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi gives up Indian citizenship, surrenders passport in Antigua: Sources
Choksi, who along with his nephew diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, also a fugitive from India, allegedly committed a fraud on Punjab National Bank amounting to over Rs 13,500 crore, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).Updated: Jan 21, 2019 12:49 IST
Fugitive diamond trader and a key accused in bank fraud cases at Punjab National Bank Mehul Choksi, who fled to Caribbean country Antigua and Barbuda, has given up his citizenship of India and surrendered his passport, sources said on Monday.
Choksi, who along with his nephew diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, also a fugitive from India, allegedly committed a fraud on Punjab National Bank amounting to over Rs 13,500 crore, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A move like this of surrendering his passport has no legal consequences since India doesn’t have dual citizenship, said the sources.
Choksi became a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under a programme in which a certain quantum of investment entitles an individual to citizenship. According to investigations, 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 last year. The fraud came out a little later.
Choksi was formally granted citizenship in November 2017 but took oath as an Antiguan citizen on January 15 last year.
Soon after Antigua learnt about the fraud case against Choksi, it had underlined that it would “honour any legitimate request” to extradite him. This implied that Choksi, who was seen to have gone beyond the reach of investigators by getting himself a new country, could still be extradited.
Both Modi and Choksi left India last year and have not returned despite repeated summons from the investigation agencies and courts.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) said earlier in January it has attached a factory owned by Choksi in Thailand worth over Rs 13 crore in connection with the PNB fraud case.
The agency said it has issued a provisional order for attachment, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), of the factory premise owned by Abbeycrest (Thailand) Limited which is a “group company” of the Gitanjali group of companies.
The ED has also submitted applications to have Choksi and Modi declared fugitives under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act after they left India.
A person can be declared a fugitive economic offender under the act if a warrant has been issued against him for an offence involving an amount of at least Rs 100 crore and he has left the country and refuses to return.
Choksi, in his reply to the agency’s plea to declare him a fugitive economic offender, has blamed the “fiasco” on the “mismanagement of the public sector bank”. He also denied allegations of defrauding the bank.
And in December last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) managed to secure an Interpol Red Notice against Choksi, in what is seen as a big boost to its efforts to bring him back to India to face trial in the PNB fraud case.