In yet another impediment to India’s efforts against fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, Interpol has now raised queries on an Enforcement Directorate (ED) request to get a Red Notice (RN) issued against him. Earlier, Interpol had similarly 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 presently hiding in the Caribbean country. The government has sent an extradition request to the country to bring him back to India.
In a communication sent to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on August 23, Interpol has sought clarifications on the money laundering case against Choksi, who along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is a key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case. Sources said Interpol has raised objections to the case against Choksi being mixed up with that of Nirav Modi though the two individuals and their companies operated independently of each other. It is learnt that Interpol has asked the ED to detail specific allegations against Choksi and mention only his alleged criminal conduct in its request.
According to sources, both the CBI and ED in their initial request for a Red Notice against Choksi had detailed the entire case in which Choksi along with Nirav Modi, his companies and his family members are accused. This, sources said, has jumbled up the entire process as Interpol has already issued a Red Notice against Modi on the request of the CBI. “This has happened because the first FIR was registered on a complaint from PNB where both Choksi and Nirav Modi are accused. However, offences committed by them are separate and both are being probed by the CBI and the ED separately for their respective offences. This has created an anomaly in the RN issuing process. The twin agencies should have mentioned only the offences committed by these individuals which have been taken cognisance of by the courts,” an official privy to the details said.
The CBI, in its chargesheets filed on May 14, had alleged that Nirav Modi, through his companies, siphoned off funds to the tune of Rs 6,498.20 crore using fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued from PNB’s Brady House branch in Mumbai. Choksi allegedly defrauded Rs 7080.86 crore, making it possibly the biggest banking scam in the country, it had alleged. The only thing common between the two cases is the bank that was swindled and the modus operandi said sources.
The CBI has already sent a reply to similar queries raised by Interpol where it had asked the agency about why Choksi’s case was clubbed with Nirav Modi’s. In its reply, the CBI has also attempted to allay Choksi’s fears of poor jail conditions and human rights violations apart from adequate legal protection available to him in India.
Despite being a bigger defaulter and facing more serious allegations than Nirav Modi, Choksi has proved to be a far tougher fugitive to bring back to India. The government’s efforts to get him extradited or even get an RN issued against him have yielded little so far. Exasperated agencies are now arguing that an RN is not required to get him extradited as it only demands of the requestee to inform the fugitive’s location and in any case a request to detain him has already been sent. This, sources in Interpol said, was factually wrong since RN demands the requestee to detain a fugitive.
Also, Antigua has earlier refused to restrict Choksi’s movements since an RN is not issued against him. He continues to be free to travel to 130 countries on his Antiguan passport, sources said.