PNB fraud: Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi’s passport expired in Nov 2022

Co-accused in the scam, Mehul Choksi acquired Antigua and Barbuda passport in 2017

NEW DELHI | Updated: 09 February, 2023 4:33 pm IST
Mehul Choksi's Antigua and Barbuda passport expired in November 2022 

In a major boost for the Indian investigative agencies, the Antigua and Barbuda passport of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, who is a co-accused of ₹12,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud has expired, sources related to the probe told The New Indian.

The fresh development will strengthen India’s case for his extradition with the authorities of the Caribbean island country, the source revealed.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) source also confirmed that Choksi’s Antigua and Barbuda passport, which he acquired in November 2017, expired in November 2022.

“His Antigua and Barbuda passport was issued on November 16, 2017, with a five-year validity. It expired on November 15, 2022,” the source said. It also added that now India’s case for his extradition will be easier.

The passport, a copy of which has been seen by The New Indian shows India as his place of birth (May 5, 1959).

The source further revealed that the fugitive businessman is trying hard to get his passport renewed. His legal aid, however, denied commenting on the issue.

A message from The New Indian to Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne remains unanswered at the time of filing this report.

Choksi left India in November 2017, just two months before the CBI charged him and diamantaire Nirav Modi in the ₹12,500 crore PNB fraud case.

Choksi acquired Antigua and Barbuda’s passport in November 2017 by availing of the Caribbean island nation’s investment programme.

After the CBI booked Choksi and Nirav Modi, ED also swung into action and registered a case of money laundering. The agency also got him declared a fugitive absconder under the newly passed Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. A Red Corner Notice (RCN) was issued by Interpol against Choksi on a request from India.

In May 2021, Choksi was arrested in Antigua and Barbuda’s neighbouring country, Dominica, for his alleged illegal entry to the country.

Choksi, who was then photographed in a wheelchair with marks of bruises on his face, alleged that he was allegedly abducted and forcibly brought to Dominica from Antigua and Barbuda by boat.

Following the PNB fraud scam, India made a formal extradition request to Antigua and Barbuda in 2019, which he contested legally there.

The request for Choksi’s extradition was made based on the documentary evidence sent by the CBI and ED to Antigua, accusing him and a few of his firms of involvement in the PNB scam.

India does not have an extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda but has an extradition arrangement with it, based on the fact that the latter notified India as a designated Commonwealth country in 2001.

Choksi’s nephew and fugitive diamantaire Modi is also a co-accused in the PNB scam, and he had also exited India in January 2018 before the scam came to light.

Modi was arrested in London and India has made an extradition request with the authorities.

The ED and CBI have accused Choksi and a few of his firms of having defrauded PNB of ₹6,097 crore, a charge he has denied.

Choksi is accused of fraudulently obtaining funds worth ₹6,097 crores from PNB’s Mumbai branch via Letters of Undertaking (LOU), despite his ineligibility.

Modi’s three firms are also accused of fraudulently obtaining funds worth approximately ₹6,498 crores from a PNB Mumbai branch via LOU despite their ineligibility.

The scam happened between February 2011 and May 2017, according to the ED and CBI. The ED had also attached several assets of Modi and Choksi in India in connection with the case.

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