Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, wanted in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, was held in Dominica after his mysterious disappearance from Antigua and Barbuda. He could be handed over to authorities in India soon, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said.
Choksi is accused of defrauding PNB of almost Rs 13,600 crore, went missing for the last three days from Antigua and Barbuda, of which he has been a citizen since early 2018. Investigators indicated that Choksi had escaped to Dominica on a boat probably en route to Cuba.
With an Interpol lookout circular issued against him, Choksi was caught by the local Dominican police and is currently in the custody of the CID.
The PNB scam cost the second largest public sector bank in India around Rs 11,400 crore of losses. Mehul Choksi, and the main accused Nirav Modi, absconded from the country before news of the scam came through.
Who is Mehul Choksi?
Mehul Choksi is the owner of Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery company in India with over 4,000 stores. He is also the uncle of Nirav Modi and one of the prime accused in the PNB scam. Choksi is wanted by the Indian government for his involvement in the case.
What is the PNB Scam?
The PNB scam involved the issuance of fraudulent letters of undertaking (LOUs) by the bank after Choksi, the Modis and others colluded with bank officials. The LOUs were issued to Modi and Choksi’s businesses without any cash margins or securities, leading to heavy losses for the PSU bank.
Why is Choksi in Antigua?
Choksi fled India and citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda using the citizenship via investment route in 2017. In January 2018, Choksi had escaped from India to Antigua before the news of the scam became public and arrest warrants against him were issued.
While Choksi was wanted by Indian authorities and even had Interpol warrants against him, he was staying in Antigua and Barbuda. The extradition proceedings were initiated to bring him back. Choksi had appealed against the extradition orders, and Prime Minister Gaston Browne had said Choksi would be extradited after he exhausted his appeals.
Why did Choksi Flee Antigua?
Presumably, Choksi decided to flee from Antigua and Barbuda to Cuba in order to avoid being extradited to India after exhausting his appeals in that country’s judicial system. Since Cuba has no extradition agreement with India, Choksi’s retrieval from the island nation would have been much more difficult than before. However, things did not go according to Choksi's plan as he was captured by Dominican authorities when en route to Cuba. Efforts are on to hand him back to Antigua and Barbuda, where he would await extradition.
(Edited by : Shoma)
First Published: IST