New Delhi, Aug 5 :India on Sunday has formally handed over the extradition request for fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi to the Antiguan authorities.Congress led Opposition has attacked the Narendra Modi government for assisting Choksi to escape India after Antigua government underscored that it accepted Mehul Choksi’s citizenship request only after Indian agencies gave a clean chit to the businessman.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted in the Rs 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case, which is now being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.
The CBI had sent an extradition request for fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi to the government, to be forwarded to Antigua, where Choksi took citizenship in November last year.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted in the Rs 13,578-crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB).India had requested authorities in Antigua and Barbuda to detain Choksi after it received information about his presence in the country.
Antigua officials replied that they cannot annul Choksi’s citizenship as that would violate their constitution. They claimed he got citizenship only after his credentials were “verified.”
Antigua’s Citizenship by Investment Unit or CIU said Choksi’s application was received by the CIU in May 2017 with necessary documentary requirements, including a police clearance certificate, as required by Section 5 (2) (b) of the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Act 2013. “The said police clearance certificate from the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, certified that there was no adverse information against Mr Mehul Chinubbhai Choksi which would render him ineligible for grant of travel facilities including visa for Antigua and Barbuda,” it said.
However, they assured Indian officials that they might consider New Delhi’s extradition request once a Red Corner Notice (RCN) is issued against him. An RCN request made by the CBI on May 29 against him is pending before Interpol.
Mumbai Police on Saturday said the Regional Passport Office (RPO) here had issued a passport to the absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, one of the prime accused in the PNB fraud, after granting him a no ‘Police Verificiation Required (PVR) status.
Accordingly, no PVR was generated for the passport, issued under the ‘Tatkal’ category on September 10, 2015, valid for 10 years, said an official statement.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said on Friday that a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) was issued on the basis of a clear PVR available on his (Choksi’s) passport.
However, according to the Mumbai Police today, it was only after nearly one-and-a-half years – on February 23, 2017 – that Choksi had applied for getting a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) to the RPO.
On February 24, 2017, the Malabar Hill Police downloaded the Personal Particular Form for police verification, prior to issuing the PCC.
On March 10, 2017, it submitted the PCC report of “no criminal antecedents against Choksi.”
This was done after duly checking the Criminal Antecedents and Information System (CAIS) of Mumbai Police for checking the criminal records of any passport applicant within its jurisdiction.
“The system will reflect only the applicant’s name if he has been arrested in any offence,” said the statement.
Four days later, on March 14, 2017, the Passport Branch of SBI-II, CID, had forwarded its PCC report to the RPO.