Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who fled India after allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of more than Rs. 7,000 crore , has confirmed that he took Antiguan citizenship last year to “expand his business” as its passport allows visa-free travel to more than 130 countries.
As reported by the Daily Observer from the Caribbean nation, he said: “My application was motivated by my desire to expand my business interest in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries.” He said he was in the United States in January for medical treatment.
Once again refuting charges that he cheated banks, Choksi, in a statement released to the media through his lawyer, said: “I can, however, state that I lawfully applied to be registered as a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment Program. During the course of my application, I did all that was lawfully required of me to do. My application for citizenship was in due course approved.”
The CBI has written to the Antiguan authorities seeking information on Choksi.
Antigua indicates that it may consider India’s “legitimate” request
After the Opposition leaders sought a probe into the grant of citizenship to Choksi, the Antiguan government indicated that it may consider India’s “legitimate” request to extradite him, despite the fact that there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.
Choksi took the citizenship of Antigua in November 2017, and oath of allegiance on January 15 this year, according to local daily Antigua Observer .
Nirav Modi and Mr. Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI after the detection of the cheating of the bank of more than ₹13,400 crore, allegedly by them with the purported involvement of a few of its employees.
The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January last, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies. Choksi and Nirav Modi fled India the same month nearly a fortnight after the detection of the scam.
Choksi’s actions show that he had planned his escape and subsequent life in advance knowing that the scam would blow up after the retirement of PNB employee Gokulnath Shetty, who was allegedly helping him with renewal of letters of undertaking, sources had said.