New Delhi: Antiguan authorities have confirmed that Gitanjali Gems promoter Mehul Choksi, who along with his nephew Nirav Modi is at the centre of the $2 billion PNB fraud case, is in their country, officials in New Delhi said Thursday, adding that a move to extradite him will be initiated soon. The communication was received by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in response to their queries on Choksi’s whereabouts.
In a letter sent to Antiguan authorities last week, CBI cited a diffusion notice issued by Interpol against Choksi and sought details of his movement and his present location, the officials quoted above said. He had taken citizenship of Antigua in November 2017, and oath of allegiance on 15 January this year, the officials said.
Now, the investigating agency is likely to move an extradition request through the external affairs ministry, said the officials, and may not wait for Red Corner Notice, an application for which is still pending with Interpol.
The Citizenship by Investment unit of Antigua and Barbuda had told local newspapers that Choksi’s citizenship application was granted after “robust due diligence" and “international investigation" by “reputable agencies", including the International Criminal Police Organisation and the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
CBI, the nodal agency of India for Interpol, said no information regarding background checks of Choksi was sought from it by the international agency.
“The Interpol has not sought any information related to Choksi from the CBI in the last 3-4 years," CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal had said.
Choksi’s actions show that he had planned in advance his escape and subsequent life knowing that the PNB fraud would blow up after the retirement of PNB employee Gokulnath Shetty, who was helping him with renewal of letters of undertaking (LoUs), the officials said.
The Gitanjali Gems promoter allegedly swindled ₹ 7,080.86 crore, making the PNB fraud possibly the biggest banking scam in the country.