PNB fraud case: Interpol Red Notice against Choksi still pending

Choksi went missing on May 23 and Antiguan police are trying to locate him, as reported in local media

Alleged mastermind of the ₹13,578-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case Mehul Choksi, who is said to have gone missing in Antigua where he has been facing extradition proceedings, already has an Interpol Red Notice pending against him. Therefore, he can be detained in any of the Interpol member countries and deported to India.

Choksi went missing on May 23 and the Antiguan police are trying to locate him, as reported in the local media. The development comes weeks after the United Kingdom’s Home Department approved the extradition of Choksi’s nephew and another key accused, Nirav Modi, following a verdict by the Westminster Court against him in February.

It was on the CBI’s request that the Interpol had issued the Red Notice against Choksi in December 2018. He had fled India along with other key accused persons in January 2018, days before the CBI registered cases against them for cheating the bank through fraudulently issued Letters of Undertaking in favour of their companies.

Antiguan citizenship

It later turned out that Choksi had taken Antiguan citizenship by registration in November 2017. In a statement to the Antiguan media, the fugitive diamond merchant had then claimed that he took the citizenship to expand his business interest in the Caribbean and to get visa-free travel access to about 130 countries. Now, an Antiguan passport holder can travel to as many as 165 countries without getting any visa.

Despite requests from the Indian agencies, the Antiguan authorities have not yet executed the Interpol Red Notice against Choksi.

Having lost the first round of legal battle in the U.K., Nirav Modi has now approached the High Court there seeking permission to contest the decisions of the Home Department and the Westminster Court. Given that he has not been granted bail even for once, after he was arrested in London on March 19, 2019, Indian agencies are hopeful that his plea would also be dismissed to facilitate his early extradition for facing trial in India.

“We have also been pursuing the case against Choksi diligently. In view of the reports about him having gone missing, we may request the Antiguan authorities for an update on his whereabouts,” said a government official.

In the recent past, the Indian agencies have been able to bring two key accused persons in the AgustaWestland case from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Christian Michel and Rajiv Saxena. Lobbyist Deepak Talwar was also brought from the UAE in connection with another case.

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