- Mehul Choksi has moved to Antigua from US, sources said
- He may have bought citizenship of Antigua for about Rs. 1.3 to 1.7 crore
- Antigua does not have extradition treaty with India
Fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship by Antigua in November last year, months before the PNB loan fraud erupted and the CBI started investigating him and Nirav Modi.
Sources say when Choksi applied for citizenship, authorities in Antigua had asked India to give details of any cases against him. At the time, there were none.
Choksi left India in the first week of January and took an oath of allegiance as a citizen of that nation on January 15, according to a local newspaper, Antigua Observer. It was days later, on January 29, that the CBI filed a case and started investigating Choksi and his nephew, celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, over a Rs. 13,500 crore fraud that involved fake guarantees in the name of India's second largest government bank PNB, or Punjab National Bank, to facilitate overseas loans.
Choksi may have bought citizenship from Antigua for a fraction of that money - Rs 1.3 crore - suspect investigators. With a passport from the country, he can travel freely.
The Antigua newspaper, citing Indian media reports, had sent a questionnaire on Choksi to the Citizenship by Investment unit of Antigua. It was told that the businessman's application was granted after "robust due diligence" and "international investigation" by "reputable agencies", including the International Criminal Police Organization and the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the paper reported.
Officials believe Choksi's actions show he had planned his escape route knowing the scam would explode after the retirement of the PNB employee who had helped him with fake guarantees.
India was informed by the US about fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi's move to Antigua on Monday, sources have told NDTV.
Yesterday, the CBI wrote to Antigua asking for details on where the 59-year-old is staying.
Antigua is among the many tax havens in the Caribbean and has no extradition treaty with India, which makes it harder to chase the runaway diamond businessman.
India had cancelled the passports of both Choksi and Nirav Modi in February, after investigators uncovered the huge loan fraud at PNB. Nirav Modi is said to be in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
There is an Interpol Red Corner Notice - close to an international warrant - against Nirav Modi. To the CBI's request for one against Choksi, the Interpol had asked for clarifications.
Choksi has refused to return to India, saying he fears "mob-lynching".
"There have been various cases of mob lynching in India... Even the applicant faces a similar threat as there are several persons who have grievances and anger against him (Mehul Choksi)," he says in his application.
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