Mehul Choksi, the fugitive uncle of the Rs 13,500-crore PNB fraud main accused Nirav Modi, said that the reason why he took the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda is because he intends to “expand his business”.
In a statement released to Caribbean daily, Antigua Observer, Choksi stated that there is “no truth” in the accusations against him but refused to make any further comments on the matter.
In the statement, which was issued through his lawyer, Choksi said that his purpose was to “expand my business interest in the Caribbean” and “to obtain visa free travel access to 130 or so countries” through the Antigua and Barbuda passport.
His statement reportedly came after it media reports of him having left Antigua for another country started circulating.
According to Antigua Observer, Antiguan foreign minister EP Chet Greene said that he was not aware of any request for the extradition of Choksi from either the Indian government or any other law enforcement body.
“However, if a request is received we will honour any legitimate request made of us notwithstanding that we do not have any extradition agreements with India,” Greene was quoted as saying by the daily.
Choksi was granted citizenship of the island nation under the country’s Citizenship by Investment programme. He was granted citizenship “after extensive vetting” in November 2017. Antiguan authorities said that Choksi “swore the Oath of Allegiance in Antigua on 15 January 2018”.
The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) also told Antigua Observer that a “robust due diligence international investigation” was conducted before granting Choksi citizenship and that “the 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information”.
Notably, the PNB fraud case emerged only when the bank filed a complaint with the CBI on 29 January this year.
Antigua revealed details of Choksi’s citizenship last week after it received a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) notice regarding his criminal status that was sent to all foreign countries via the Interpol.
India has cancelled the passports of both Choksi and Nirav Modi over the PNB scam.
The Choksi case so far
On 11 July, the ED asked a special court in Mumbai to declare diamond merchants Choksi and Nirav Modi as “fugitives” under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018 because they fled from India a month before they were named in the fraudulent case on 31 January.
The ED has been probing two cases of money laundering against Choksi, Nirav Modi and others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the basis of FIR registered by the CBI, the prime investigating agency of the case.
In these cases, the ED had on 24 May and 26 May filed prosecution complaints or charge sheets against Choksi and Nirav Modi. The court has taken cognisance of the charge sheets and issued non-bailable warrant against both the absconders.
On the request of ED and the CBI, the Interpol has also issued Red Corder Notice against Nirav Modi.