The war of words between the Congress and the BJP for the extradition of fugitive diamantaires Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank fraud, intensified on Tuesday.
While the BJP assured that the government will leave no stone unturned in taking stern action against fugitive economic offenders, the Congress alleged that the incumbent government failed to take action against the main accused Nirav Modi and Choksi despite having the information regarding the fraud.
“Our government has formed laws – Fugitive Economic Offender Bill – to take strict action against Fugitive Economic Offenders. I assure you that our government will take action against the fugitives, that process is underway,” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters in Kanpur.
Singh’s comments came after Choksi, the maternal uncle of Nirav Modi, termed allegations levelled by the Enforcement Directorate as “false and baseless”. “All the allegations levelled by the ED are false and baseless. They (the ED) have attached my properties illegally without there being any basis of the same,” he said in an undated video made available to news agency ANI.
The ED’s request for an Interpol Red Notice against Choksi has been pending for months. 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.
The Congress, on the other hand, stepped up attack on the Narendra Modi-led government, accusing it of helping Nirav and Choksi flee the country. “Despite having the information on the fraud, the Modi government did not take any action against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi. This was done deliberately so that they can flee from the country before Jan 4, 2018,” Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said while addressing a presser in New Delhi.
“On April 20, 2018, after Choksi fled, PM Modi met Antiguan President in UK but he didn’t utter a word to send back Choksi. This is not my words, it has been said by Antiguan President in an interview on July 27. He said Indian govt never approached them on this issue,” Surjewala added.
Nirav and Choksi are being investigated by Indian agencies after PNB complained against their companies, saying it had been cheated of Rs 13,600 crore through fraudulent LoUs and Foreign Letters of Credit. Both men left India this January, a few weeks before the scam came to light.