Fugitive Mehul Choksi held in Dominica, was fleeing to Cuba
Mehul Choksi - the fugitive Indian jewelry trader and one of the country's most wanted in connection with the Rs. 14,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam - has been captured in Dominica, reports say. He was trying to flee to Cuba after recently being reported missing in the Caribbean island country of Antigua and Barbuda, where he had been residing since 2018.
Choksi escaped to Dominica by boat
Sources cited by NDTV say Choksi reached Dominica - another island nation in the Caribbean - by a boat. Since a lookout circular had been issued against him, he was caught by the local police and is currently in their custody. The process of handing him over to the authorities in Antigua has since been initiated.
Choksi was reported missing in Antigua on May 23
Choksi was reported missing on May 23 at the Johnson's Point Police Station in Antigua. At that time, it was said that his family was also unaware of his whereabouts. The Antigua Police then issued a lookout notice against him and launched a massive search operation. Notably, Choksi currently holds the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.
Choksi facing two cases in Antigua's courts
Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, had said there was no reliable information that Choksi had fled the country. "If he would have fled the country it would be by way of some form of sea vessel." Choksi is reportedly facing two cases in Antigua's courts - extradition and revocation of his citizenship.
'Family is relieved to learn that he is safe'
Choksi's lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said his family is relieved to learn about his safety. "Efforts are on to speak to him so that we can know how he was taken to Dominica," Aggarwal told The Indian Express. Meanwhile, sources in India's probe agencies told NDTV Choksi's attempt to flee Antigua will strengthen their case against him, possibly paving the way for a faster extradition.
What is Choksi's role in the PNB scam?
Choksi is wanted in India by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate on charges of fraud and money laundering. He is accused of siphoning off close to Rs. 7,080 crore in the PNB scam. He fled to Antigua in January 2018, just weeks before the scandal came to light. He was also allegedly involved in stock market manipulation back in 2013.
Choksi denies the allegations, calls it 'political conspiracy'
Choksi's assets worth Rs. 2,500 crore have already been attached in this case. Earlier this year, Antigua and Barbuda had initiated the process to cancel his citizenship. However, he challenged that move in court. Choksi has been denying the allegations against him, terming it a "political conspiracy." Choksi's nephew - billionaire businessman Nirav Modi - is also an accused in the scam.