Imaginary Conjunctures: CBI on Mehul Chokshi’s removal from Interpol’s list of RCN

Central agency says steps are being taken to reverse the decision; an RCN is not required for extradition proceedings

NEW DELHI | Updated: 21 March, 2023 6:13 pm IST
Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi (File photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Tuesday, March 21, that the decision to remove fugitive diamantaire Mehul Chokshi from Interpol’s Red Corner Notice (RCN) list has serious errors.

The central agency had said that it has taken up the matter with concerned authorities to revise Interpol’s decision. The agency also added that Interpol’s RCN is not a requirement for extradition proceedings.

Choksi is wanted in a ₹13,000-crore Punjab National Bank scam. A case was registered against him and others on February 15, 2018. The agency had already filed two chargesheets in the case against Choksi and others under Sections 120-B read with 409, 420, 477A, 201 IPC and Sections 7 and 13(2) read with 13(1)(c) and (d) of the PC Act, 1988.

Subsequently, in 2022, the CBI registered five more criminal cases against Choksi and others for defrauding banks and financial institutions.

“The CBI, as the National Central Bureau for Interpol, had issued a diffusion to locate absconding criminal Mehul Chinubhai Choksi in February 2018. After which, his movements were tracked by the CBI in coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies and he was geolocated in Antigua and Barbuda. An extradition request against Mehul Choksi was sent through diplomatic channels to the competent authorities of Antigua and Barbuda in August 2018,” CBI spokesperson RC Joshi said.

The CBI accused Choksi of creating hurdles in the process and for diversions of matters, the fugitive keeps on approaching international forums.

“In 2018, Choksi approached the Commission for Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) making a request for non-publication of the Red Notice,” the agency said.

CCF is a separate body within Interpol that is not under the control of the Interpol Secretariat and is mainly staffed by elected lawyers from different countries.

“CCF had studied his request and consulted the CBI. CCF dismissed the representation of Mehul Choksi and Interpol published a Red Notice,” the agency said.

Interpol had only published a Red Notice against wanting to accuse Mehul Choksi in December 2018 at the request of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED), the financial probe agency of the central government. This was subsequent to the CBI’s geo-location of a wanted criminal and the initiation of the extradition request.

“The purpose of a Red Notice issued by Interpol is to seek the location of a wanted person and to seek their detention, arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender or similar action,” the CBI said.

“Choksi was already located prior to the publication of Interpol’s Red Notice and steps were also initiated for his extradition. Although the primary purpose of Red Notice was already achieved, it was retained as a precautionary measure,” Joshi explained.

As the extradition proceedings against Choksi were proceeding in Antigua and Barbuda, to create distractions, the CBI alleged that Choksi had been approaching various international forums with fully concocted and imaginary narratives.

In 2019, Choksi again approached CCF, seeking the removal of a Red Notice from Interpol’s website. CCF had studied his request, consulted CBI and based on inputs, again in 2020, dismissed Choksi’s plea, CBI said.

Choksi again approached various international forums and also approached the CCF in July 2022 to revise its earlier decision of 2020.

“CCF consulted CBI and ED on the matter and the factual situation regarding the narrative of Choksi being wholly unsubstantiated and without an iota of evidence was put forth to the CCF. However, based on mere imaginary conjunctures and unproven surmises, a five-member CCF chamber has taken a decision on the deletion of Red Notice, communicated in November 2022,” CBI said.

“CBI has taken up with CCF the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, overreach of mandate and mistakes committed by CCF in the manner of reaching this unfounded and perfunctory decision,” CBI said.

The CBI continues to exercise available remedial and appellate options within Interpol for the rectification of this faulty decision and the restoration of the Red Notice, the agency added.

The CBI also pointed out that even the Antigua authorities consider there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that the applicant concealed material facts or made a false representation when he applied for his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship, a fact that reflects on the previous conduct of this criminal.

“CCF has subsequently clarified to the CBI that its decision in no manner has any determination on the guilt or innocence of Choksi for crimes for which he remains charged in India,” the central investigation agency said.

Speaking about the measures taken by the agency, a CBI spokesperson said, “CCF has reiterated that it has not established factual certainty and there is no factual finding in their decision that Choksi will not have a fair trial. Based on new information and serious errors in the decision, CBI is taking steps for the decision of CCF to be revised.”

“CBI remains in active communication with CCF and other bodies in Interpol in an ongoing process relating to this case,” it added.

Clarifying that Interpol’s decision to remove the fugitive’s name from the Red Notice will not affect extradition proceedings against him.

“The Global Operations Centre of the CBI continues to closely monitor the movements of wanted criminals like Choksi in close direct coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies and is not reliant only on Interpol channels,” the agency said.

“The extradition request made by India is under active consideration before the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda and remains fully unimpacted by Red Notice-related communications with Interpol,” the agency assured.

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