PMO’s Letter Shows It Knew of Choksi’s Wrongdoings Before PNB Scam
The PMO received complaints against Choksi even before PNB scam came to light, its letter to the MEA shows.
In a letter from the Prime Minister’s Officer to a number of investigating agencies and ministries accessed by The Quint, it’s apparent that the PMO was aware of fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi’s financial wrongdoings even before the PNB scam was unraveled on 31 January 2018.
In the letter dated 3 August 2018 that was sent in reply to a letter sent by the Foreign Secretary, the PMO wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Revenue Secretary, CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) about Choksi, recommending that they find and provide information to help the Antiguan government establish a reason to cancel his Antiguan citizenship:
“Agencies/Ministry should examine whether they can provide any information which can establish that charges were pending or action was being contemplated against the accused during the period of processing and approval of his request for Citizenship in Antigua & Barbuda. And to help the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to establish that he has willfully concealed material facts or made false assertions relating to his application for citizenship.” (emphasis supplied)
PMO Forwards Complaints to Agencies For Action
With regard to establishing that “charges were pending or action was being contemplated against the accused during the period of processing and approval of his request for citizenship of Antigua & Barbuda”, the PMO has admitted in its reply letter that it had in fact received “complaints/petition from the public regarding financial irregularities, including violation of criminal law by companies involving the accused, which were forwarded to the concerned Ministries/Departments and Investigating Agencies” during that time.
Along with its reply letter sent to the investigating agencies, the PMO also enclosed a “compiled” report containing the details of the complaints and cases pending against Choksi in India.
Antigua Has Refused to Extradite Choksi
The PMO’s letter was written in response to a letter from the Foreign Secretary on 31 July 2018, in which he stated that the government of Antigua & Barbuda had refused to extradite Choksi.
The Foreign Secretary had written that the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda communicated to the Indian High Commissioner of Guyana that “citizenship was granted to Mehul Choksi after due diligence” and that the “Antigua & Barbuda Constitution protects the citizenship passport granted to Mehul Choksi.”
Importantly, the Foreign Secretary’s letter had also stated that Choksi could only lose his Antigua & Barbuda citizenship under one single circumstance:
“The passport of Mehul Choksi can only be revoked with cause if it is established that he has made false assertions or willfully concealed any relevant facts from Government of Antigua & Barbuda between submission of his application on July 2017 and the granting of citizenship on November 2017.” (emphasis supplied)
India to Seek Choksi’s Cancellation of Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship
The Quint was first to report that India doesn’t need to seek Choksi’s extradition when his citizenship of Antigua & Barbuda can be cancelled.
The CBI informed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that it has already written to its counterpart agency in Antigua for the provisional arrest of Choksi.
The agency further informed the MEA that a Red Corner Notice is not required to extradite Choksi, but to restrict his movement from Antigua.
With the government of Antigua & Barbuda refusing to extradite Choksi, it will be interesting to see whether India is able to prove that Choksi willingly concealed facts about his pending cases while seeking their citizenship, and thereby provide grounds for the Antiguan government to revoke his passport.
If India is unable to do so, then Choksi’s return to India to face trial – for the Punjab National Bank scam of Rs 13,000 crores – looks unlikely.
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