FUGITIVE JEWELLER and PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi has fled to Antigua and taken the Caribbean country’s citizenship, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been informed.
The authorities in Antigua have communicated to the ED that Choksi arrived in the country this month and was given an Antiguan passport. The information has been sent in response to a ‘diffusion notice’ issued against Choksi through the Interpol.
Sources, however, said the communication has not come through the Interpol, but directly from Antigua.
Choksi and his nephew, Nirav Modi, are wanted by multiple investigating agencies after state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) complained against their companies, saying it had been cheated of Rs 13,600 crore through fraudulent letters of undertaking and foreign letters of credit. Both left India in January, a few weeks before the scam came to light.
While Modi has been criss-crossing the globe on a revoked passport, and has been variously reported to be in China, Belgium, UK, US, UAE and Hong Kong, Choksi’s last known location was New York City.
While a Red Corner Notice (RCN) has been issued against Modi and his brother, Nishal, a request for the same against Choksi is pending with the Interpol. Citing lynching incidents in the country, Choksi has refused to come to India, saying he fears for his life. A special court in Mumbai has issued a Non-Bailable Warrant against him.
The CBI is hoping the Interpol will issue an RCN against Choksi, as it would help them to pin him to one country and then start extradition proceedings.
“We can start extradition proceedings without RCN as well. We have a confirmation from Antigua that he is there. We will get in touch with our mission there and get more details on his location. Then, in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs, the next course of action will be decided,” said a CBI officer.
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 LoUs issued from PNB’s Brady House branch in Mumbai. Choksi swindled Rs 7,080.86 crore, making it possibly the biggest banking scam in the country, it had said.