New Delhi: Gitanjali Gems Ltd’s promoter Mehul Choksi, an accused in the Rs12,636 crore PNB fraud case, has refused to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a move that may slow the pace of the investigation.
Nirav Modi, a co-accused in the PNB fraud, also declined to join the CBI investigation. Both Choksi and Modi are in an undisclosed foreign location
Without access to the alleged perpetrators of the PNB fraud, CBI may be hamstrung in bringing about an early closure to the investigation of the politically sensitive case.
Citing “extreme mental agony" and a “gross abuse of process of law by the investigating agencies", Choksi, in a detailed letter addressed to CBI, said that although he was carrying on his business outside India, he was incapable of travelling because his passport has been suspended.
“I wish to bring to your kind attention that…my passport has been suspended. I received an email from the passport office which stated that my passport has been suspended due to the reason ‘security threat to India’…as my Passport stands suspended by the Regional Passport Office under Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, it is impossible for me to travel back to India," he wrote in the letter.
Citing poor health, Choksi claimed that this eventual arrest would deny him adequate medical attention.
“I had a cardiac procedure which was conducted in the first week of February… I am concerned about my health and well-being. In case I am arrested, then I would not be able to get proper healthcare and would be provided treatment only in a government hospital," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
On 19 February, CBI had written to Modi and Choksi, asking them to appear before it on 20 February. On 23 February, the agency once again summoned Choksi and asked him to appear on 26 February. Thereafter, on 28 February, the agency wrote to both Modi and Choksi asking them both to appear before the CBI on 7 March.
On 7 March, the CBI revealed that they had received an email from both the co-accused, rejecting the agency’s request. In response to Choksi’s letter, CBI said that the accused was obligated to cooperate with the investigation.
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“We will be responding to the email today (Thursday). We have asked them their whereabouts and they have not revealed that. It is legally obligatory on them to appear before CBI with a full legal team and they are repeatedly violating summons and giving excuses," said a CBI spokesperson in New Delhi.
While Choksi, in his letter, complained about the deprivation of fundamental rights to defend himself, his lawyer Sanjay Abbot stated that they would seek an alternative legal recourse.
“My client (Choksi) has a medical condition and he can’t travel to India for the next four to six months. We cannot approach the embassy in the country where he is because my client is being treated as a ‘threat to national security’ and he will be arrested immediately. We are now looking at all other possible legal routes," Abbot said in an interview.
The developments come in the wake of a third first information report (FIR) registered by CBI on 4 March against Nirav Modi, Ravi Shankar Gupta, chief financial officer (CFO) of Firestar International; and Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Firestar International.
The FIR was registered based on a complaint by PNB on 4 March.
Ambani, who was arrested by CBI last month, has been sent to judicial custody till 19 March by the Special CBI court in Mumbai.
“Searches were conducted on Wednesday and Thursday at the residences of the director and CFO of Firestar International in Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Delhi and Gurgaon. On Thursday, eight more searches were conducted against Gitanjali group in Mumbai and Chennai," the CBI spokesperson added.