New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday said its officers had no hand in the escape of diamond traders Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in connection with the over ₹ 12,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
Under attack from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who has accused the agency of deliberately weakening the lookout circular against fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya, allowing him to flee the country, the agency also reiterated that the decision was taken as there were not sufficient grounds to detain or arrest him.
“CBI Jt Director, A.K. Sharma, weakened Mallya’s ‘Look Out’ notice, allowing Mallya to escape. Mr Sharma, a Gujarat cadre officer, is the PM’s blue-eyed-boy in the CBI. The same officer was in charge of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi’s escape plans. Ooops...investigation!" the Gandhi scion tweeted.
The CBI said it had received a complaint against beleaguered diamantaire Modi and his uncle Choksi from the bank almost a month after they had fled the country. “Therefore the question of any CBI officer having any hand in their fleeing the country does not arise. Prompt action was taken by CBI in the case immediately after the complaint was received from the bank," the agency’s spokesperson said in a statement released on Saturday.
Some media reports also named Sharma, now additional director, as the man who handled Mallya’s case. Defending Sharma, its number three in command, the CBI said the decision to alter the circular was taken at the appropriate level as a part of process and not individually by the officer as alleged.
The CBI had in October 2015 issued a look out circular against Mallya asking immigration authorities to detain him upon his return from abroad. Weeks later in November, the circular was changed from seeking his detention to merely informing the agency.
Mallya, whose extradition case is being battled out in a London court by India, had taken refuge in the UK after fleeing on 2 March 2016 taking advantage of the diluted circular against him.