India asks Antigua to detain Mehul Choksi
31 July 2018
India has requested authorities in Antigua and Barbuda to detain fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi after it received information about his presence in the Caribbean island, government sources said on Monday.
They said the Indian envoy is in touch with the authorities in the island nation and has requested them to restrict his movement by land, sea and air.
Mehul Choski, the co-accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank fraud, is wanted in the case of Prevention of Money Laundering Act and his passport was revoked in February 2018.
However, Mehul Choksi has claimed he has decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda, which is his country of “citizenship” and “abide by laws of the country”.
Reports quoting external affairs ministry sources said the Indian high commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda had alerted authorities in Georgetown after receiving information on the likely presence of Mehul Choksi in that country and has sought help in tracking him down.
Reports last week claimed that Mehul Choksi has taken Antiguan citizenship last year to expand his business as the passport of the Caribbean nation provides visa-free travel to 132 countries.
Choksi’s lawyer in the Caribbean country also issued a statement claiming that the fugitive businessman is still there. The statement also claims that Choksi has lawfully applied to be registered as a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment Programme.
He got the citizenship in November 2017 but took the oath of allegiance on 15 January this year, only 15 days before the CBI registered its first FIR in the PNB scam.
He claimed to have applied for the Antiguan citizenship to expand business in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries, which an Antiguan passport provides for.
The Indian envoy is reported to be in constant touch with authorities in A&B government and Indian government and concerned agencies there to pursue the matter.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for cheating Punjab National Bank of more than Rs13,400 crore, allegedly with help from a few of the bank’s employees.
The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January this year, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies.
Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi fled India in January this year nearly a fortnight before the scam was detected.
Mehul Choksi's Indian passport was revoked in February 2018.