Illustration: Aroop Mishra
A diamond merchant flees India in January 2018, days before his involvement in a Rs 13,500-crore bank loan fraud comes to light. Soon, he takes up a foreign country's citizenship; although back in his own country, he's a wanted criminal, with several charges slapped against him, triggering a massive legal battle and a wild chase by Indian authorities to bring him back to the country.
Three years later, he tries to befriend a woman as ‘Raj’, even gifting her ‘fake diamond jewellery’, only to be ‘honey-trapped’, ‘abducted’, and then dramatically ‘rescued’ from another country! The Indian agents, however, are forced to return empty-handed.
Rukavat ke liye khed hai... This is neither an upcoming OTT series, nor a soon-to-be released thriller. Presenting the curious case of Mehul Choksi.
Mehul Chinubhai Choksi is an India-born fugitive businessman, diamantaire, owner of Gitanjali Group, and maternal uncle of another fugitive businessman Nirav Modi.
Choksi and Modi are the key accused in the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam. The fraud was allegedly planned and organised by jeweller and designer Nirav, his wife Ami Modi, brother Neeshal Modi, and Choksi. They are accused of colluding with two employees of the Punjab National Bank (PNB), the country's second-largest state-owned lender.
In March 2018, a special PMLA court issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Choksi, Nirav, and Neeshal. At least six PNB staff and close to six employees and aides of Choksi and Modi have been arrested so far.
Choksi has been named in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charge sheet for –
- criminal conspiracy
- criminal breach of trust
- delivery of property
- money laundering
The Great Escape
Nirav Modi, his family and Mehul Choksi fled the country in January 2018, before the scam came to light, sending shockwaves across the country.
On 7 January 2018, Choksi left India and 'escaped' to the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. A week later, on 15 January, he took oath as the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.
He is believed to have applied for the citizenship in November 2017 itself. Choksi has reportedly not renounced his Indian citizenship either. On 17 June 2018, his lawyer informed the Bombay High Court that he left India for medical check-up and not to avoid prosecution in the PNB fraud case.
Thus started a wild chase by Indian authorities – the CBI, the ED and the MEA, to extradite him back to India.
'Raj' Ka Huya 'Honey Trap', 'Apharan'...
Achanak teen saal baad... Choksi is back in the limelight and how.
On 23 May, Mehul Choksi had gone missing from Antigua, where he had been living since 2018. Choksi, in his five-page complaint with the Antiguan Police, said that he was kidnapped and brought to Dominica to give an interview to a "high-ranking Indian politician." He named a Barbara Jabarica and alleged that she was involved in his abduction.
Choksi added that the men took his phone, watch, and wallet but returned his money. He hinted at being ‘honey-trapped’ by ‘Indian-looking agents’ with the help of Barbara
Speaking to news channels, Barbara Jabarica claimed that Choksi had introduced himself as ‘Raj’ and that she would speak to him over text messages only once a month. She even alleged that 'Raj' would gift her fake jewellery.
Denying allegations of her involvement in Choksi’s abduction, Jabarica claimed that for people who know the Jolly Harbour area, the place from where Choksi was allegedly picked up from, it’s impossible to kidnap anyone there in broad daylight.
Massive Manhunt And a Dramatic Rescue
Mehul Choksi going missing from Antigua sparked a massive manhunt and three days later, he was dramatically rescued from Dominica, on 26 May 2021, while reportedly trying to escape to Cuba.
On 6 June 2021, Choksi disclosed the names of his alleged abductors to the Antigua Police, who are looking into his reported abduction from the Caribbean country. Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that Choksi's lawyers gave the names to the police commissioner in a complaint.
“Choksi has filed a complaint with the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda to the extent that he was abducted. He made a formal claim through his attorneys that he was abducted from Antigua and taken to Dominica. So, it is a report that police is taking seriously, and they are currently investigating the abduction.”Gaston Browne, Antiguan PM
Choksi’s lawyer alleged that he was kidnapped from the Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen who looked Antiguan and Indian and was brought to Dominica on a boat. Choksi also claims to have met ‘Indian agents’ when he was shifted from a small boat to a bigger one.
Picture Abhi Bhi Baaki Hai...
Choksi is currently facing trial in Dominica for allegedly entering the country illegally from Antigua. He was held by the local police for illegally entering Dominica and trying to escape to Cuba in a boat
Choksi’s lawyers claimed on 2 June 2021 that he was abducted and brought to Dominica forcefully, and pleaded not guilty to illegal entry at his court appearance. But the Dominican High Court denied him bail.
“The matter with this Indian citizen is before the courts, the courts will decide what happens to this gentleman and we allow the court process to go through.”Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominican PM
The Dominican court, however, adjourned the matter to 14 June 2021. So the eight-member team of officials from the CBI, the ED, and the MEA, led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut, that went to Dominica with the purpose of bringing back Choksi to India, ko lautna pada khali haath...
He is currently housed in the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital under police guard.
For now, Choksi abhi bhi faraar hai, par picture abhi baaki hai....
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