Can't return to India: lack passport, fear for safety, says Choksi

Diamond merchant Mehul Choksi, one of the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank fraud that has now burgeoned to be close to Rs 13,000 crore, has written again to the Central Bureau of Investigation that he cannot come back to India as he fears for his safety.

Responding to fresh summons by the investigating agency, the Gitanjali Group owner said that "exaggerated" allegations by multiple investigating agencies had left him "completely defenceless" and that he feared for his safety to return home.

He also said it was impossible for him to return to India and help in the investigation due to the suspension of his passport.

"Regional Passport Office hasn't communicated with me and my passport remains suspended," Choksi said in the letter, adding that he has the deepest respect for the CBI's offices and he is not making excuses to avoid returning to India.

Responding to the CBI's notice demanding his appearance, Mehul Choksi said that he is "extremely held up" in his business abroad and is working hard to resolves the issues it is facing due to the "unnecessary" closure of business in India over "untenable allegations".

"Further I am unable to travel to India due to my persisting health condition," Mehul Choksi said in the letter.

In a two-page letter dated 16 March to the CBI, Choksi denied he was a partner of Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond and Solar Exports.

These firms have been accused of conducting fraudulent transactions with Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International owned by his nephew Nirav Modi, who is also a prime accused in the PNB fraud.

The companies were named by the CBI in an additional First Information Report filed on 14 February. Choksi was summoned to appear before the CBI on 16 March for questioning in the case.

He questioned the CBI move to name him in another case related to the bank fraud "knowing fully well that I have no concern whatsoever" with Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond, Solar Exports.

"I am neither a partner (of these firms) nor do I have any kind of association with the three concerns," he said.

The jeweller said that he had earlier also responded to CBI's notices. "Surprisingly, the issues raised remain unaddressed, making my fear of safety rise to extreme levels," Choksi said.

Choksi also hit out at the media saying that it continues to conduct a trial by itself and "blow every issue out of proportion".

"I further inform that requiring me to join investigation, though leaving me helpless and information-less, by various actions taken by multiple agencies is unfair. The manner in which the allegations have been exaggerated has left me completely defenseless," Choksi said in the letter.

India's biggest banking scam involving billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi is now estimated at close to Rs13,000 crore. Interestingly, both Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi left the country just before the fraud came to light.

In an earlier letter, Nirav Modi had denied any wrongdoing, and gave similar reasons for not returning back to India.