#PNBScam: Mehul Choksi gives up Indian citizenship to avoid extradition
In what is being seen as a move to avoid extradition to India, fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi has surrendered his Indian passport to the Indian High Commission in Antigua and Barbuda. The move comes at a time when the island nation is hearing India's case for extraditing Choksi, who has been absconding for over a year. Here are the details.
Although India does not have a bilateral extradition pact with Antigua and Barbuda, the government has been trying to extradite Choksi under a law that allows the Caribbean country to send back a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth nation.
According to officials, Choksi surrendered his passport (Z-3396732) along with $177, and declared Jolly Harbour Marks, Antigua as his new address. Interestingly, investigations have revealed that Choksi had started his citizenship process in Antigua and Barbuda well before he fled India in January last year, and the Rs. 13,000cr PNB scam came to light. He was formally granted citizenship in November 2017.
Choksi took up his Antiguan citizenship in January 2018. Over the course of the year, he told a Mumbai court that he could not endure a 41-hour return journey to India because of his ill health. He also claimed in a written statement that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had misled the court by not revealing his health condition and his willingness to settle his dues.
Both Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi had fled India in early January last year, just weeks before the Rs. 13,000cr PNB scam came to light. While Choksi has taken refuge in the Caribbean country, Modi is believed to be hiding in London. However, the net might be closing in on them, considering that Interpol has issued red corner notices (RCNs) for both.
As it stands, Interpol has issued RCNs against Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Modi's sister Purvi, Modi's brother Neeshal, and executives Subhash Parab and Mihir R Bhansali. RCNs allow participants in Interpol to issue arrest warrants against fugitives of different nationalities on their home soil. With 192 out of 195 countries being Interpol members, avoiding an RCN is difficult.
To refresh your memory, Modi and Choksi are being investigated by the ED and the CBI for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of more than Rs. 13,400cr with the help of some bank employees. The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, came to light in January 2018, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies.