The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected all the pleas filed by fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi challenging the applications by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to declare him a fugitive economic offender (FEO) in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
A single Bench of justice S.V. Kotwal was hearing four petitions filed by Mr. Choksi. The ED had moved the special court to initiate proceedings against Mr. Choksi as an FEO, however he moved the High Court challenging some procedural lapses by the Central agency.
The directorate has filed three chargesheets against Mr. Choksi and his three companies — Gitanjali Gems Limited, Gili India Limited and Nakshatra Brand Limited. The chargesheet also names PNB bank officials for issuance of fraudulent letter of understanding (LoUs). The ED registered a case against Mr. Choksi on February 16, 2018 on the basis of the First Information Report registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation under criminal conspiracy and cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property of the Indian Penal Code and read with the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On July 10, 2018, the ED filed an application before the special court to declare him an FEO. On October 31, last year, Mr. Choksi filed 10 applications before the special court and they were rejected on January 31, 2019. He then moved the High Court and sought for the order to be set aside which was rejected by another Bench of the High Court in 2020.
In December 2019, Mr. Choksi’s nephew Nirav Modi was declared an FEO in the PNB scam. In May 2019, liquor baron Vijay Mallya was declared the first FEO. The FEO Act was introduced to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. The declaration of FEO empowers the court to confiscate all properties in the country and abroad and would help in the extradition proceedings.