A number of media houses in India are reporting that diamond trader Mehul Choksi, wanted for bank fraud along with his nephew Nirav Modi is in possession of an Antigua and Barbuda passport.
The Citizenship by Investment Unit confirmed that the applicant obtained citizenship under the programme earlier this year.
The Times of Indian is reporting that the two men and their families skipped the country in January this year — a fortnight before the huge fraud at the Punjab National Bank surfaced.
According to reports, Investigation agencies have been on the lookout for them since. Nirav Modi is said to be in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
Non-bailable warrants were issued against them, after which the Interpol issued a “red corner” notice – close to an international arrest warrant.
It is reported that after another Interpol notice, the Antiguan authorities informed the Enforcement Directorate that Mehul Choksi arrived there this month and has taken the passport of that country.
Last month, Centre’s probe agency Enforcement Directorate told a Mumbai court that both should be declared as “fugitive economic offenders” and their assets worth Rs. 3,500 crore (or USD 12,950,731,500), spread across India, UK and United Arab Emirates, confiscated.
Mehul Choksi has reportedly refused to return to India, saying he would be killed by mobs if he was brought back.
Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi came under the radar of Central investigation agencies after Punjab Bank officials found they allegedly cheated the bank of more than Rs. 13,400 crore (or USD 49,582,800,600) over seven years with the connivance of some of the employees.
Antigua Newsroom reached out the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) here for a comment.
The unit said after extensive vetting, Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship by registration in November 2017 but refused to comment further on the article which we forwarded to them.
The CIU added that Mr. Choksi’s application was subject to, “Robust due diligence international
investigation, which is conducted on each principal applicant and dependent, by reputable agencies, including the International Criminal Police Organization and the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).”
“The 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information about Mr. Choksi. The CIU also confirms that on 15th January, 2018 Mr. Choksi swore the Oath of Allegiance in Antigua, a requirement under the provisions of the Citizenship by Investment Act.”
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