The Enforcement Directorate (ED), whose request for an Interpol Red Notice (RN) against Mehul Choksi has been pending for months, has now accused the international agency of leaking information to the key accused in the Rs 13,600 crore PNB scam.
In a communication sent last week, the ED asked Interpol to desist from providing information about the ED’s RN request to Choksi. The ED has said this because the Interpol’s queries against its request are based on objections raised by the fugitive jeweller.
“The fact that Choksi’s objections to our request for a Red Notice against him are pin-pointed, only means that he has all the details of our request,” an ED official said.
He added that the ED believes that details should be shared with an accused only after the Interpol has recorded the charges in its database. “Following that, the accused can challenge it. But Interpol appears to have a different view. The fact that the accused has been charged by a competent court, should be a good enough ground to issue a Red Notice,” the official said.
Interpol had written to ED on August 23, seeking clarifications on its request for the RN. It had objected to the case against Choksi being mixed with that against Nirav Modi, as the two individuals and their companies operated independently of each other. Interpol had asked the ED to detail specific allegations against Choksi, and mention only his alleged criminal conduct in its request. These assertions were based on objections raised by Choksi, ED sources said.
Interpol had earlier asked CBI to respond to Choksi’s claims of poor jail conditions in India, and anomalies in the agency’s case against him. Choksi has acquired citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda, and is said to be hiding in the Caribbean country. The government has sent a request for his extradition.
In its reply to Interpol, the ED has also said that Choksi’s objections are “malafied”, and have been raised only to stop or delay the RN against him. Notably, Antigua and Barbuda has already said that it would detain Choksi or restrict his movements only after an RN is issued against him. He remains at liberty to travel visa-free to over 130 countries, which an Antiguan passport allows.
The ED has also explained in its reply that the anomaly being cited by Interpol is due to the first FIR in the case being against both Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. Subsequently, it has said, separate chargesheets have been filed against the two accused.
Sources said both the CBI and ED, in their initial request for an RN against Choksi, had detailed the entire case in which Choksi along with Nirav Modi and his companies and family members, are accused. “This happened because the first FIR was registered on a complaint from PNB, which accused both Choksi and Nirav Modi. However, their offences are separate, and they are being investigated by the CBI and ED separately for their offences,” an official privy to details of the investigations said.
In its chargesheets filed on May 14, the CBI alleged that Nirav Modi, through his companies, siphoned off funds to the tune of Rs 6,498.20 crore using fraudulent Letters of Undertaking issued from PNB’s Brady House branch in Mumbai. Choksi allegedly defrauded the bank of Rs 7,080.86 crore, making it possibly the biggest banking scam in the country, the CBI said.
In its reply sent earlier to queries raised by Interpol, the CBI had attempted to allay Choksi’s fears of poor jail conditions and human rights violations in India, and said that adequate legal protection would be available to him. Choksi is a bigger defaulter and faces more serious allegations than Nirav Modi, but the government’s effort to get him extradited or even get an RN issued, has yielded little so far.