After months of effort from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Interpol has issued a Red Notice against fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, the key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
Choksi, who left the country just before CBI registered an FIR against him and his nephew Nirav Modi in February this year, has taken refuge in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda. He has also taken its citizenship.
The Interpol published the notice against Choksi on Wednesday, and sources said the issuance of Red Notice will help India get the jeweller extradited. “The extradition talks with the Antiguan government is already in final stages. Hopefully we will be able to bring him soon,” a government source said.
“Continuous efforts are being made for the extradition of all the accused,” a CBI statement said.
The Antigua government had earlier said it would not restrict Choksi’s movements, after India made a request to detain him. As an Antiguan citizen, Choksi has the liberty to make visa free travel to over 130 countries. After the issuance of the Red Notice, this is likely to be restricted and Antiguan authorities will now be expected to detain him, pending extradition.
Boost for India bid to bring back Choksi
The Interpol issuing a Red Notice against fugitive jeweller and key accused in the PNB scam Mehul Choksi opens doors for India to push for his extradition with the government of Antigua and Barbuda with greater vigour. The government of the Caribbean country earlier made it clear that it would not be able to restrain the movements of Choksi, who is now its citizen, unless the Interpol issues a Red Notice. Bringing Choksi, and his nephew Nirav Modi, back to India is of utmost importance to the government since the opposition has cornered it over the issue.
The development comes days after UAE extradited VVIP chopper case middleman Christian Michel, and a UK Court approved the extradition of Kingfisher Airlines owner Vijay Mallya.
According to CBI, a chargesheet was filed against Choksi and 17 other accused for cheating PNB to the tune of Rs 7080.86 crore on May 16. “It was alleged that Shri Mehul Chinubhai Choksi (the main beneficiary of the defrauded funds) had escaped from the country before registration of the case. Look Out Circular was issued by the CBI against the accused. After filing the charge sheet, a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by the Special Judge against the accused,” a CBI statement said.
A request for Red Notice to be issued against both Nirav Modi and Choksi was immediately sent to Interpol. However, while the notice was issued against Nirav Modi and his brother Neeshal, the Interpol kept the request against Choksi pending for months.
This was due to several objections raised by Choksi, and multiple back-and-forth clarifications to the Interpol given by the CBI and ED. “In fact, the last clarification was sent only last month,” an ED official said.