New Delhi: A day after PNB fraud accused Mehul Choksi was traced to Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean islands, persons familiar with the developments said investigating agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, were informed about his whereabouts at the last moment. Gitanjali Gems promoter Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are at the centre of the $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB).
“The ministry of external affairs (MEA) had been pursuing the matter with the United States government and the latter had informed that Choksi was not in the US. After he was traced to Antigua, the MEA had sent the letter to both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday about Choksi’s whereabouts," said a person familiar with the developments.
The MEA did not immediately respond to Mint’s calls and messages seeking a response.
On Tuesday, Choksi was traced to Antigua, after he had secured a local passport—a move that has now thwarted chances of Indian investigating agencies closing in on him.
According to the citizenship rules of Antigua and Barbuda, Choksi was required to make a contribution to the National Development Fund (NDF) of a minimum non-refundable amount of $200,000, or an investment of at least $400,000 into one of the approved real estate projects to be held for a minimum period of five years, or an investment of a minimum of $1,500,000 directly into an eligible business as a sole investor.
Also read: The anatomy of the PNB fraud
However, the rules also specify that a person is considered ineligible for citizenship if he “is the subject of a criminal investigation" or “is a potential national security risk to Antigua and Barbuda or to any other country" or “is involved in any activity likely to cause disrepute to Antigua and Barbuda".
“It is not known yet how Choksi has managed to secure the citizenship and we are working on the case now," the person quoted above added.
The developments unfolded on Tuesday, a day after Choksi moved court to cancel the non-bailable warrant against him. Choksi’s lawyer, Sanjay Abbot, declined to comment on the matter.