Updated: June 17, 2021 7:12:50 am
Invoking the charge of destruction of evidence against Mehul Choksi and 21 others, including his company Gitanjali Gems, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has claimed in a supplementary chargesheet that a month after the jeweller left the country, original applications submitted by Gitanjali Gems to Punjab National Bank (PNB) were shifted in apparent collusion with a bank official with an intent to cause their disappearance.
Claiming that Choksi had prior knowledge about the impending legal proceedings against him, the chargesheet, filed last week, claimed that the businessman visited Hong Kong in December 2017, met the dummy directors of his supplier entities and apprised them about the problems his Gitanjali group was facing in India.
Choksi told them that they might have to face inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate, the chargesheet added. The PNB’s complaint alleging cheating was filed only two months later in February 2018, one month after Choksi fled the country on January 4, 2018.
On the allegation of destruction of evidence (section 201), the CBI claims that after 165 fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) were issued by PNB staffers in March-April 2017, all the original applications which were meant to be with the bank, were returned to Gitanjali Group companies.
“These applications along with documents were recovered during searches conducted by the CBI from the premises taken on rent by an employee of Choksi at the instance of (co-accused) Vipul Chitalia,” the chargesheet claimed.
It added that the documents were shifted from a shop in Khetwadi to another location with an intention to cause their disappearance, adding they were recovered later during searches by the agency.
The accused are also facing charges of cheating, criminal breach of trust, falsification of accounts and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The supplementary chargesheet mentioned a total of 347 Foreign Letters of Credit which were issued between 2014 and 2016, and whose values were allegedly enhanced.
The chargesheet claimed that three companies linked to Choksi were engaged in circular trade with three Hong Kong-based supplier entities.
“Investigation revealed that semi-finished pearl-studded jewellery was being exported to Hong Kong by the three accused companies,” it said. The Gitanjali Group companies used to dismantle the jewellery in Hong Kong and the same pearls were then exported from the supplier entities to companies linked with Choksi in India, it added.
The chargesheet also claimed that those linked to the dummy companies as partners, directors and signatories were instructed by Choksi not to visit India to avert trouble from investigating agencies.
In a statement, Choksi’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, said: “This supplementary chargesheet after three years shows that it is only an attempt to cover up anomalies that the defence has pointed out in the first chargesheet. Moreover, addition of section 201 IPC of destruction of evidence is not legally tenable as a document becomes evidence only after filing of (before) the court, and the allegations are of a period much prior to even (the) FIR.”
The CBI has approached a Dominican court seeking extradition of Choksi, a key accused in the Rs-13,000-crore PNB loan fraud case, to India to join investigation in the case. Choksi has claimed he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean nation of which he says he has been a citizen of since early 2018.
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