Why No Red Corner Notice Against Mehul Choksi? CBI Has No Answer
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is still dragging its feet to get a Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against fugitive diamantiare Mehul Choksi, accused in the Rs 13,000-cr Punjab National Bank scam. Till the time an RCN is issued against Choksi, he can freely travel to any country on Antiguan passport without any hurdle.
The requests for issuance of an RCN against main-accused Nirav Modi and his uncle Choksi were sent together to Interpol in May 2018. Even though both Modi and Choksi are facing similar criminal charges, Interpol issued an RCN against Modi on 2 July, but Choksi’s is still pending.
Speaking to The Quint, a CBI officer said they weren’t certain about when Interpol will issue an RCN against Choksi. However, the officer added that the agency had sent the CBI a set of four questions in reply to their request.
The four questions pertained to:
- The validity of warrants issued against Choksi
- Any additional facts on the case against him
- Whether India wants an open or restricted RCN
- Specific role of Choksi in the criminal case
Similar questions were asked for the issuance of an RCN against Nirav Modi.
In reply to the Interpol, the CBI forwarded them all the details of the case against Choksi. They also told the agency that they wanted an open RCN against him.
What is the difference between open and restricted Red Corner Notices?
In an open RCN, the information of the wanted person is uploaded on the Interpol website for the public. Simultaneously, the information of the wanted person is shared with Interpol of all countries.
Whereas, in a restricted RCN, the information of the wanted person is not made public, it is only shared with the Interpol of all countries.
An open RCN was issued in Nirav Modi’s case.
The question, now, is why the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have failed to convince the Interpol on the issuance of an RCN against Choksi.
It’s due to this failure that Choksi has managed to travel to Antigua, a tax haven with which India has no extradition treaty.
Will Choksi be able to travel after an RCN is issued against him?
According to the agencies, Mehul Choksi won’t be able to travel after an RCN is issued, because the moment his personal details like name, birthplace and birthday are punched at any airport, it will raise an alarm.
Antiguan passport allows travel to 132 countries, including all Schengen nations, without a visa. However, this won’t matter, as once the RCN is issued, Choksi will be detained the moment he tries to cross the border.
How much did he purchase the Antiguan passport for?
The investigating agencies in India don’t have any information about the amount Choksi spent in purchasing the passport of Antigua, as they are still waiting for the Antiguan authorities’ response.
However, according to the Citizenship By Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda, to get a passport, Choksi would have spent a minimum of USD 1,25,000 as a contribution to Antigua National Development Fund.
What information has the CBI sought from the Antiguan authorities?
Based on the Diffusion Notice issued against Choksi, the CBI wrote a letter to the Antiguan authorities on 25 July, seeking information about his whereabouts. The letter also inquired about details like when did Choksi reach Antigua and where is his official residence. The CBI also shared the details of the case against Choksi with the Antiguan government.
When did Choksi apply for the Antiguan passport?
While the CBI and ED say they don’t know when Choksi applied for an Antiguan passport, a local newspaper, The Daily Observer, has reported that the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has confirmed Choksi was granted Antiguan citizenship in November 2017. As mentioned in the report, CIU said Choksi was granted a passport only after “extensive vetting”.
However, according to the CBI, Interpol never got in touch with them to verify Choksi’s credentials before November 2017.
Did the CBI and ED know that Choksi was in the US?
The CBI and ED claim they had no information about Choksi’s presence in the US. However, this seems unlikely as in May 2018 the CBI had written to the US authorities for details on Choksi.
So, technically, the US authorities were aware of Choksi’s case. Not just that, there had been several media reports about his presence in the US.
In addition to this, an investigative officer of the PNB scam told The Quint that a letter sent by Interpol to Indian agencies on 20 July states that it was informed by the US Department of Justice that on the basis of the US authorities’ “assessment”, Choksi left the country on 8 July on an Antiguan passport. However, the Indian agencies are objecting to the use of the word “assessment” by the US authorities, and asking why the country didn’t say with certainty whether Choksi used an Indian or an Antiguan passport.