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Mehul Choksi: A Renegade

This paper contains the details of the case of Mehul Choksi, a fugitive businessman of India. He has been charged with various offences including Punjab national Bank Fraud Case, Money-Laundering Case and others. This paper deals with the case of PNB scam of Rs.13,500 crores. It also deals with the controversies related to his return to India.

Introduction:
Mehul Choksi, a fugitive Indian businessman, was born in Bombay in 1959. He has completed his education from G. D. Modi College in Palanpur, Gujarat. He has three children. He started his career in gems and jewellery sector in 1975 and thereafter inherited his father's business. He is the owner of Gitanjali Groups having about 4000 branches all over India.

Punjab National Bank- Fraud Case:

The PMLA Special Court in March 2018 made an arrested of Choksi and his nephews Nirav Modi and Nishal Modi. It is said that they have entered into a comatose state, with the PNB bank officials who cheated the bank of more than Rs.14,000 crore. It is said to be a hoax-it is the largest bank scam in the history of India.

The officials of the PNB branch, Brady's House in Forte of Mumbai furnished and supplied fake, Letters of Undertakings (LoUs). They were opened in favour of the branches of Indian bank in order to import the gems, for a period of one year, for which, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has already provided the guidelines for a total period of 90 days from the date of shipment.

These recommendations were ignored by the foreign branches of Indian banks. They failed to showcase any document or information to PNB which was given to them while crediting loan by the firms.

According to CBI reports, Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had used the loopholes of the banks to make profits out of it. Some of the employees were also involved with them in the same.

Further, he had been involved in money laundering as per the reports of Enforcement Directorate (ED). Mehul Choksi has been booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and other sections pertaining to cheating, criminal conspiracy of the Indian Penal Code and other relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

He had not shown before the investigators for the purpose of investigation. He had given reasons for the same such as his health condition is not good, he has been suffering from diabetes and other health issues. On July 10, 2018, Mehul Choksi was declared a fugitive under the newly introduced Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance on demand of an application by Enforcement Directorate.

Mehul Choksi has fled India in 2018 before the news of the scam became public. He went to Antigua and Barbuda where he had acquired citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment Programme. Thereafter, he had went missing on May 25 and found in the island of Dominica. The ministry of national security and home affairs of Dominica has declared him prohibited immigrant. It has also ordered the police to remove Mehul Choksi from the territory of Dominica.

Dominica Court:

Mehul Choksi has filed a bail petition in the court of Dominica for bail and an affidavit as well claiming that he is a law-abiding citizen and he should be allowed to return to Antigua. He also claimed that he would not leave Antigua till further notice. But the court has rejected the bail. His lawyer put forward that Mehul Choksi had not come to Dominica with his free will but was kidnapped. He had attended the court proceedings on the wheelchair as he was unable to walk.

He also claimed that he was admitted in a hospital due to his poor health conditions. Therefore, according to Section 6 of Dominica's Passport and Immigration Act, he is not a prohibited immigrant, therefore he has not committed any offence and cannot be arrested. He further alleged that Mehul Choksi was not presented before the magistrate within 72 hours as per the law of Dominica.

A habeas corpus petition has been filed on behalf of Mehul Choksi in Dominica High Court for his illegal detention.

The ministry has sent him a separate notice as well informing that he is not allowed to enter Dominica and that police have been ordered to take requisite steps to expritrate.

Mehul Choksi Return To India:

Several Indian agencies were in touch with the government of Dominica using diplomatic channels urging that he is an Indian citizen and that he had an Interpol Red Corner notice Interpol describes an RN as a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action[1] and he should be given back over to the Indian authorities.

The opposition parties United Workers' Party of Dominica and United Progressive Party of Antigua and Barbuda are in support of him against his deportation to India, in return for campaign funding. Antiguan Information Minister Melford Nicholas has declared that he has ordered to rescind his citizenship of Antigua as he has provided the Government with false information. Choksi has challenged the same in the court.

On 6 June, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Mr. Browne said that India sent a private jet to Dominica carrying important documents related to the deportation of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi to India. He further alleged that he has asked Dominica to hand over Choksi to India directly. The Qatar Airways' private jet has been sent from India to bring back Mehul Choksi from Dominica but there is no news of him returning to India.

Conclusion:
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mehul Choksi will remain be in Dominica as a case is going on in the Dominica Court against him. The next hearing of the case is expected to be on 1st July, 2021. As per the reports, India is making all the possible efforts to bring back fugitive to India to face justice. Further, Antigua PM Gaston Browne has stated that Choksi should be return to India directly from Dominica otherwise it would create problem for Antigua and Barbuda.

End-Notes:
  1. What is an Interpol Red Notice, what does it do? available at https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-an-interpol-red-notice-what-does-it-do-5956571/
References:
  • https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-pnb-scam-explained-who-is-mehul-choksi-what-are-the-cbi-ed-cases-against-him/383952
  • https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/mastermind-fraud-cbi-ed-cases-mehul-choksi-1808190-2021-05-28
  • https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-delhi-will-take-all-steps-to-bring-back-mehul-choksi/article34721992.ece
  • https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/private-jet-sent-by-india-to-being-back-mehul-choksi-leaves-dominica-121060400322_1.html

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