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India hands over extradition request to Antigua for Mehul Choksi

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Mehul Choksi

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.

India

NATO forces’ M4 gun falls in JeM hands in Kashmir

Umar and Kamran had allegedly played a key role in planning and executing the fidayeen attack in which the Kashmiri suicide bomber Adil Dar killed 40 paramilitary personnel at Lethapora, Awantipora, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019.

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US-made M4 sniper Masood Azhar

New Delhi, Sep 18 : The UN Security Council (UNSC) designated international terrorist and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Maulana Masood Azhars three nephews, each carrying a US-made M4 sniper, have been killed in three different encounters in Kashmir in the last three years.

A number of US-made M4 sniper rifles, used by Nato forces to fight terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, have fallen in the hands of Azhar’s guerrilla group, JEM, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Released by India in exchange for the IC-814 hostages at Kandahar in December 1999, Azhar has been designated as an international terrorist by the UNSC in May 2019, after years of sustained resistance by China.

The M4 carbine is extensively used by the US Armed Forces and is replacing the M16 rifle in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps combat units as the primary infantry weapon and service rifle. The M4 is also capable of mounting the M203 and M320 grenade launchers.

The M4 has semi-automatic and three-round burst firing modes (like the M16A2 and M16A4), while the M4A1 has semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes (like the M16A1 and M16A3). It is essentially a lighter and shorter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle with a telescopic stock.

Three of Azhar’s nephews-Talha Rashid, Usman Ibrahim and Umar Farooq-have died in different encounters with security forces in Kashmir in the last three years. All the three were in possession of M4 rifles which were recovered, along with other arms and ammunition, from the sites of the gun battles. Till now different variants of the Russian-made Kalashnikov or AK-series rifles have been the principal assault weapon with the Kashmiri and the Pakistani militants in J&K since 1988.

The M4 has entered the scene amid apprehensions that sections of jihadist guerrillas could shift their base to Kashmir after a compromise between the Americans and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Dilbag Singh, DG, J&K Police, puts the number of the militants with M4 rifles around six, claiming that ten US-made snipers had been seized. “Five to six JeM commanders are active with M4 rifles but they are well on our radar,” he said. However, some senior officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), who have been associated with the investigation of high-profile terror attacks in the last two years, maintained that 10 to 15 JeM commanders were currently armed with M4 rifles.

“The commander of every JeM module of 3-4 militants has one M4 but they have not been able to cause much damage to the police or the security forces,” said an NIA officer.

During investigations, the NIA has learned that as many as 60 JeM militants had infiltrated into Kashmir through the international border in Jammu between June 2017 to January 2020. They sneaked into the Samba and Hiranagar areas in groups of three to five. An unknown number of infiltrators is said to have entered through one underground tunnel which has surfaced early this year. According to the officials, each group carried 3-4 AK rifles and one M4 rifle.

Three of such groups were intercepted at Jhajjar Kotli, Bann Toll Plaza and Jawahar Tunnel on the 265-km long Jammu-Srinagar highway. Each time the modus operandi was to board a waiting truck in Samba or Hiranagar and reach the JeM’s hideouts in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts in southern Kashmir.

On June 20, an unsuccessful attempt was made with the help of the Pakistani Rangers to deliver arms and ammunition, including one M4, two magazines and 60 rounds of ammunition, besides seven M67 grenades, by an 18-kg drone. The quadcopter was, however, spotted by the BSF observation posts in Hiranagar and shot down. The consignment was supposedly for a Pakistani terror commander Ali Bhai, based in South Kashmir. Officials believe this was the first such attempt.

A three-member group of JeM infiltrators, travelling by an arranged truck, was intercepted by security forces near Jhajjar Kotli on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, on September 12, 2018. All the three militants were killed. Their driver and another civilian facilitator were arrested.

In an identical chance encounter at Bann Toll Plaza on January 31, another group of three JeM infiltrators was killed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Their truck driver and one civilian facilitator were arrested.

On September 9, the J&K Police intercepted a vehicle at Jawahar Tunnel on the same highway. One M4, one AK rifle and six Chinese pistols were recovered from the truck on the way to the valley from Jammu. The driver, along with a terror facilitator, both residents of Shopian, was arrested.

Talha Rashid, son of Masood Azhar’s sister, was killed in an encounter on November 7, 2017 at Aglar Kandi in Pulwama district. His Pakistani associate Mehmood Bhai and a local militant, Waseem of Drabgam Pulwama, were also killed in the same encounter. Rashid’s M4 was among the other arms and ammunition recovered.

In the middle of 2018, security agencies learned that JeM had deployed four of its commanders, each armed with an M4, from its training centres in Pakistan. Sameer Tiger, one of the most wanted militant commanders with one M4, made his own photograph viral on the social media.

Later that year, Azhar’s second nephew (the son of his brother), Usman Ibrahim alias Haider, was known to have attacked and killed three security personnel in separate sniper attacks in 10 days in the Tral-Awantipora belt. He was killed, along with an associate, in an encounter at Chankitar, Tral, on October 31, 2018. His M4 too was recovered.

Azhar’s third nephew Umar Farooq was killed, along with his Pakistani associate Kamran, in an encounter at Suthsoo Kalan village, bordering Budgam and Pulwama districts, on March 29, 2019. The recoveries included Umar Farooq’s M4 carbine. Umar and Kamran had allegedly played a key role in planning and executing the fidayeen attack in which the Kashmiri suicide bomber Adil Dar killed 40 paramilitary personnel at Lethapora, Awantipora, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019.

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Suspend Central Vista project until pandemic is over, says Congress MP

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Rajeev Satav INC

New Delhi: Congress MP from Maharashtra Rajeev Satav says that he fully supports the Bill and is willing to work for Re.1 if that would aid COVID-19 response.

However, he says that the attempt to suspend MPLAD is wrong, and criticises the government’s handling of the economy. He says that there is no accountability for PMCARES, and many other programs. He calls for MPLAD to be reinstated because it benefits the people on the ground.

He also asks that the Central Vista project be suspended until the COVID-19 fight is done with.

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MPs object to the suspension of MPLAD funds

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parliament

New Delhi: SP MP from Uttar Pradesh Vishambhar Prasad Nisha says that he supports the salary cut, but objected to the suspension of MPLAD funds. This money does not go into our pockets, but is used to help the people in our constituencies, he says. Without that, our hands are tied, he adds.

He asks that the government not use this pandemic to sneak in such measures.

DMK MP P. Wilson from Tamil Nadu argues that the savings made from passing this bill is less than the the amount spent in the process of passing it in the Parliament Houses. “The government is spending Rs. 6 crores to save Rs. 4 crore,” he says.

He too calls for the MPLAD fund suspension be lifted. He adds that it is astonishing that the government thought it appropriate to suspend the MPLAD fund while the multi-crore Central Vista project is still on.

BJP MP from Punjab Shwait Malik asks the Congress to not politicise COVID-19 efforts. He says that the PMCARES funds are being used wisely, and for coronavirus response.

AITC MP from West Bengal Dinesh Trivedi says that he fully supports the wage cuts, but asks the ruling party to include the Opposition in the decision making process.

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