OBJECTING TO the Enforcement Directorate’s plea to declare him a ‘fugitive economic offender’, diamantaire Mehul Choksi claimed he had proposed to settle the amount due to Punjab National Bank (PNB).
Choksi said that while he had submitted correspondences exchanged with PNB to settle the dues, the ED – while filing its application under the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 – “had not even mentioned” this.
“It is clear that the same is nothing but a deliberate attempt on the part of the ED to mislead this Honourable Court by not placing on record all the relevant material for the consideration of this court but only placing on record selective material and information in order to mislead this court,” a plea filed by Choksi’s advocates Rahul Agarwal and Sanjay Abbot on Monday before a special court hearing the ED’s request stated.
Choksi also denied that he left the country early this year with an intention to defraud the bank and siphon funds, claiming that he had left in India assets worth thousands of crores.
“(Choksi) had invested a huge sum in business in India and had taken premises on long term lease by paying huge security amounts by investing a huge sum in the infrastructure of the showrooms. Further, he had also spent a huge amount in advertisements. This shows that he had genuine intentions of building his brand in India and had no intention to run off,” Choksi’s lawyers claimed in court.
Choksi was named as an accused in a chargesheet, along with others including PNB staffers, in separate cases filed by the CBI and the ED, who claimed that fraudulent transactions to issue Letters of Understanding (LoU) were done at the bank to benefit the companies owned by him.
The ED is seeking that Choksi be declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’, which will allow the agency to confiscate his movable and immovable properties in a bid to ensure his presence for the probe. Choksi has claimed that the ED plea against him was made with “shallow claims”. He further reiterated his medical condition claiming that it owing to health complications it was impossible for him to sit on a flight for 41 hours and travel to India.
He claimed that he had given the option of being available for investigating agencies through video-conferencing from Antigua, where is currently resides.
Choksi further claimed that the bank had no reason to file the complaint without giving any opportunity to him to repay the amount due as the accounts of his three companies were not declared non-performing assets.
Choksi also claimed that his case was “completely different” from that of his nephew, Nirav Modi, who is also named as an accused in another similar case involving PNB. “The case of accused (Choksi) is completely different from the case of accused Nirav Modi and the accused always had sanctioned limits (for LoU transactions at PNB) and Enforcement Directorate has attached the jewellery of the flagship companies of the accused in respect of the first CBI FIR pertaining to Nirav Modi even though the has got nothing to do with it,” the plea from Choksi’s lawyers stated.
It further claimed that the ED had “deliberately undervalued” his properties in order to attach more of them under the Act. The special court will hear submissions from both parties on the plea next month.