CBI seeks restoration of Red Notice against Mehul Choksi: Agency statement

The Interpol had opened a Red Notice against Choksi in 2018 on a request from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate

March 21, 2023 03:29 pm | Updated 04:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Central Bureau of Investigation logo at CBI headquarters in New Delhi. File

Central Bureau of Investigation logo at CBI headquarters in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on March 21 said it had taken up with the Commission for Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) the serious shortcomings and the mistakes committed in reaching the “unfounded and perfunctory” decision to remove the Red Notice against fugitive Mehul Choksi. The agency has initiated measures to get the notice restored.

The CCF is a separate body within the Interpol that is not under the control of the Interpol Secretariat and is mainly staffed by elected lawyers from different countries, said the agency in a statement.

Also Read | Congress slams Centre after Interpol drops Mehul Choksi’s name from Red Notices list

The CBI said the fugitive had earlier approached the CCF twice: the first time in 2018 to prevent the issuance of the notice and the second time in 2019 to get it removed from the Interpol website. However, his representations were rejected. The third time in July 2022, facing the possibility of imminent extradition from Antigua and Barbuda, he contacted various international fora and also the CCF to get its earlier decision revised. He allegedly did so to derail the extradition proceedings, by making “false claims, concocting dramatic stories and imaginary narratives”.

Choksi alleged that in May 2021, he was abducted from Antigua to Dominica in a boat with the intention to bring him back to India.

The CCF consulted the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate on the issue and the factual situation on his narrative “being wholly unsubstantiated and without an iota of evidence” were put forth by the agencies. “However, based on mere imaginary conjunctures and unproven surmises, a five member CCF chamber, has taken a decision on deletion of Red Notice, communicated in November 2022,” said the CBI.

Stating that the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, overreach of mandate and the mistakes committed by the CCF had been pointed out, the CBI said all available remedial and appellate options within the Interpol for the restoration of Red Notice were being exercised. The CBI has said that even Antigua authorities consider that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that Choksi concealed material facts or made false representation when he applied for his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship.

According to the CBI, the CCF has subsequently clarified that its decision in no manner has any determination on any guilt or innocence of Choksi for the crimes he remains charged with in India. It has not established factual certainties and there is no factual finding in its decision that Choksi will not get fair trial.

“Based on new information and serious errors in the decision, the CBI is taking steps for the decision of CCF to be revised,” the agency said.

The CBI said the Red Notice was not a pre-requisite for extradition proceedings. “The extradition request made by India is under active consideration before authorities in Antigua and Barbuda and remains fully not impacted by Red Notice related communications with the Interpol,” it said.

The agency’s Global Operations Centre is closely monitoring the movements of wanted criminals like Choksi in close and direct coordination with the foreign law enforcement agencies and is not reliant only on Interpol channels. As a result, over 30 wanted criminals have returned to India over the past 15 months.

The first case against Choksi and his associates was registered by the CBI on February 15, 2018, for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank, after which two chargesheets have been filed against him and others. In 2022, the agency instituted five more cases against him and others on the charge of cheating banks and financial institutions.

The Red Notice against Choksi was published in December 2018, after the CCF had turned down his first representation. In August 2018, an extradition request against him was sent via diplomatic channels to the competent authorities in Antigua.

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