- The fugitive businessman was given Antigua citizenship last November
- Mehul Choksi is wanted by India for a Rs. 13,500 crore bank fraud
- He left India on January 15 this year, CBI filed case on January 29
Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, wanted in a massive bank loan scam, was considered a "fit and proper candidate" for Antigua citizenship after Indian government agencies cleared him last year and said there was "no adverse information" against him, says a statement from the Caribbean nation.
"The police clearance certificate from the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, certified that there was no adverse information against Mr. Mehul Chinubbhai Choksi which would render him ineligible," said the statement by the Citizenship By Investment Unit (CIU).
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, both jewellers, are wanted in India for 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 bought Antigua citizenship as part of a Citizenship by Investment policy for which he may have paid around Rs 1.3 crore. He left India in the first week of January and took an oath of allegiance as a citizen of Antigua on January 15. Days later, on January 29, the CBI filed a case and started investigating Choksi and Nirav Modi.
Antigua says Choksi's application was subjected to "stringent background checks" and "in no instance was any derogatory information disclosed on the applicant."
According to the note, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) disclosed investigations in 2014 and 2017 linked to companies owned by Choksi but told Antigua that one case had been satisfactorily closed and in the other, there wasn't sufficient evidence. A non-bailable warrant in 2016 was "discontinued".
The statement highlights the CBI's inability to get an Interpol Red Corner Notice to facilitate Choksi's arrest. The current investigation against Choksi emerged "well after the background vetting process", said Antigua.