Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi dropped off Interpol's Red Corner Notice list

This has come as a setback to the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate which was waiting for the 63-year-old fugitive's deportation from Antigua.
PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi (File Photo | PTI)
PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi (File Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The name of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi has been removed from the Interpol database of Red Notices on the basis of his plea to the Lyon-headquartered agency.

The decision of Interpol to take off the Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against Choksi is a result of efforts of the legal team and the genuine claim of the "kidnapping" of my client, sais his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal. Ultimately, truth has prevailed, he said, adding, "as the kidnapping attempt of my client is not approved by the international community, RCN issued against my client by Interpol has been removed".

His lawyer claimed that Indian agencies had abducted him from Antigua and forcibly taken him to Dominica in June 2021.

The 63-year-old fugitive is wanted in India in connection with a Rs 13,500-crore fraud in the Punjab National Bank (PNB). In December 2018, he was added to the Red Notice list, nearly 10 months after he fled from India in January that year to take refuge in Antigua and Barbuda, where he had taken citizenship.

The CBI has charge-sheeted both Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi separately in the scam.

The Red Notice is the highest form of alert issued by the 195-member country-strong Interpol to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

It is pertinent to note that Red Corner Notices are issued against fugitives and is considered as a request to law enforcement agencies across the world to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

Meanwhile, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge attacked the Centre over the development and said in a tweet: "ED CBI for the opposition leaders but Modijis Mehiulbhai got relief from Interpol and for his close friend he is not allowing to function the Parliament, so for old friends how he can refuse from help."

This has come as a setback to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) which were waiting for his deportation.

Choksi had challenged the CBI application seeking issuance of Red Notice against him, calling the case a result of political conspiracy, sources told PTI. He had also raised questions on issues such as jail conditions in India, his personal safety and health, they added.

The matter had gone to a five-member Interpol committee's court, called Commission for Control of Files, which had cleared the RCN rejecting his contentions, sources told PTI.

However, officials probing the matter told IANS that it will not affect Choksi's extradition from Antigua.

Choksi in Antigua; India awaits his extradition

Last year, Choksi got a huge relief from the Commonwealth of Dominica where he was charged with illegal entry by the police after the prosecution decided to withdraw legal proceedings against him.

Choksi had disappeared from his sanctuary in Antigua and Barbuda on May 23, 2021 to mysteriously appear in neighbouring Dominica where he was detained for illegal entry.

After news of Choksi being held in Dominica surfaced, India rushed a team of officials led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut to make every effort to bring him back on the basis of a Interpol Red Notice against him.

His lawyer in London Michael Polak, who filed a complaint with the Scotland Yard, said Choksi was removed from Antigua and Barbuda, where as a citizen he enjoys rights to approach the British Queen's Privy Council as a last resort in cases on his citizenship and extradition to Dominica where these rights are not available to him.

India's effort to bring Choksi back was unsuccessful as his lawyers moved with unprecedented agility to file a habeas corpus petition before the Dominica High Court which was admitted for hearing.

Their swift legal manoeuvres coupled with investigation into circumstances of his disappearance from Antigua blunted attempts of India to get Choksi deported from Dominica.

After 51 days in prison, Choksi, 62, was given bail by Dominica High Court in July 2021 to travel back to Antigua to seek medical help from a neurologist based there with a provision that he will return to face trial when gets fitness clearance by his doctors.

Choksi is currently in the Caribbean island nation and Indian authorities have asked Antiguan authorities to extradite him so that he could be prosecuted.

(With PTI, IANS, ANI inputs)

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