CBI seeks whereabouts of Choksi from Antigua

CBI seeks whereabouts of Choksi from Antigua

PTI file photo for representation.

After India being informed about PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi has moved to Antigua and Barbuda from the United States, the CBI has now written to authorities there seeking whereabouts of the fugitive diamantaire.

If one goes by the timeline of Choksi seeking citizenship and his escape from India on January 6 before a case was registered on January 30, it appears that he had an inkling that the scam would burst soon. The bank detected the fraud on January 16 and a complaint was filed with CBI on January 29.

Choksi, against whom a case was registered in the Rs 13,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam along with his nephew Nirav Modi and others was registered on January 30, has moved to Antigua in this July and has got a local passport, the Enforcement Directorate has been informed by the Interpol on the basis of a diffusion notice.

In its communication sent to Antiguan authorities on Tuesday evening, officials said, the CBI cited the diffusion notice issued by the Interpol against the fugitive businessman and sought details of his movement and his present location.

According to a statement issued by Citizenship Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua and Barbuda to a local newspaper Antigua Observer, Choksi had taken citizenship of Antigua in November 2017 and oath of allegiance on January 15 this year. The CIU said he was granted citizenship by registration "after extensive vetting" and Choksi "swore the Oath of Allegiance" in Antigua, a requirement under the provisions of Citizenship by Investment Act.

The CIU statement also said his application was subject to robust due diligence international investigation, which is conducted on each principal applicant and dependent by reputable agencies, including the Interpol and the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), a Caribbean multilateral crime and security management architecture. "The 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information about Choksi," it added.

Reacting to the statement, CBI officials said the Interpol never approached it for seeking any information about Choksi in 2017 and if it had, the agency would have informed about a non-bailable warrant issued by a local court in 2016 against him.

Officials claimed Choksi appears to have planned in advance his escape fully knowing that the scam would be uncovered after the retirement of PNB employee Gokulnath Shetty who was allegedly helping him in the issuance of Letter of Undertakings. Choksi had fled India in the first week of January and he took the oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15, they said.

According to the CBI FIR, Choksi's firm had approached the PNB on January 16 sought fraudulent issuance of LOU but a bank official flagged irregularities and sought cash guarantee for issuing it. This happened a day after Choksi took the oath of allegiance in Antigua. 

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