Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, accused of involvement in the over Rs 13,500 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB), has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua in an attempt to avoid extradition to India.
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According to news reports, Choksi has also surrendered his Indian passport number Z-3396732 with cancelled pages to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. He has also deposited the mandatory $177 dollar for leaving Indian citizenship. He has given his new address as Jolly Harbour Marks, Antigua.
Choksi, chairman of Gitanjali group, is one of the alleged masterminds in the PNB fraud case and is an uncle of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi.
He is wanted in India by the CBI and ED probing the fraud. India is trying to bring back Choksi from Antigua under the provision of a law of the island nation, which provides for the extradition of a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth country.
According to the foreign ministry, Choksi could not have given dual citizenship. However, last August, India had handed over a request to Antigua for his extradition from the Caribbean nation.
Official sources said a team from India was sent to Antigua few days back to pursue the authorities there to extradite Choksi.
As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared his citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application.
Choksi's application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper The Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).
It said the police clearance certificate (PCC) from the Regional Passport Office in Mumbai said that there was no adverse information against Choksi which would render him ineligible for grant of travel facilities including visa for Antigua and Barbuda. When asked about the PCC to Choksi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs had said it was given on the basis of a clear police verification report (PVR) available on his passport.
Under the Citizenship by Investment Program of Antigua and Barbuda, a person can take their passport on a minimum investment of $1,00,000 in the NDF investment fund.
Choksi and his companies allegedly availed of credit from overseas branches of Indian banks using the fraudulent guarantees of PNB given through letters of undertaking (LoUs) and letters of credit issued by the Brady House branch which were not repaid, bringing liability on the state-run bank, the officials have said.
An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks having branches abroad to grant short-term credit to the applicant.
India and Antigua do not have a bilateral extradition pact but the government has been trying to bring back the diamond billionaire from Antigua under a law of the island nation that allows it to send back a fugitive to a designated Commonwealth country.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jan 22, 2019 10:56:16 IST