On a day when reports said fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi was removed from Red Corner Notice database of Interpol, the CBI on Tuesday said it remains in active communication with Commission for Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) and other bodies in global police body seeking restoration of the RCN against the fugitive.
“The CBI remains committed to return of fugitives and criminals to India to face process of criminal justice. Systematic steps have been initiated in close coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies for geo-locating and return of wanted criminals and economic offenders. In the last 15 months, over 30 wanted criminals have returned to India,” the CBI said.
“Facing possibilities of imminent extradition from Antigua and Barbuda, wanted criminal Choksi again with a view to create diversions from the ongoing process and derail the ongoing extradition proceedings, with false claims, concocted dramatic stories and imaginary narratives approached various international forums and also approached CCF in July, 2022 to revise its earlier decision of 2020,” the CBI said in a statement.
The CCF consulted the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the matter and the factual situation on the narrative of wanted criminal Choksi being wholly unsubstantiated and without an iota of evidence were put forth to the CCF.
“It was clarified that the desperate wanted criminal Choksi has been making all possible attempts to derail ongoing extradition proceedings in Antigua and Barbuda, to evade the process of law in India. However, based on mere imaginary conjectures and unproven surmises, a five-member CCF chamber has taken a decision on deletion of Red Notice, communicated in November, 2022,” the agency said.
Thereafter, CBI has taken up with CCF the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, over reach of mandate and mistakes committed by CCF in the manner of reaching this “unfounded and perfunctory decision”.
“The CBI continues to exercise available remedial and appellate options within INTERPOL for rectification of this faulty decision and for restoration of Red Notice,” it said.
The CBI has also pointed out that even Antigua authorities consider there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that the applicant (Choksi) concealed material facts or made false representation when he applied for his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship, a fact which reflects on previous conduct of this criminal, it said.
The CBI said the CCF has subsequently clarified to the agency that its decision in no manner has any determination on any guilt or innocence of Choksi for crimes he remains charged for offences in India.
The CCF has reiterated that it has not established factual certainty and there is no factual finding in their decision that Choksi will not have fair trial.
“Based on new information and serious errors in the decision, the CBI is taking steps for the decision of the CCF to be revised. The CBI remains in active communication with CCF and other bodies in INTERPOL in an ongoing process relating to this case,” it said.
Choksi, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, are accused in a CBI case relating to one of the biggest banking scams involving swindling of Rs 13,000 crore of Punjab National Bank (PNB).
A case was registered against Choksi and others on February 15, 2018 for defrauding PNB. The CBI has already filed two charge-sheets in the case against wanted criminal Choksi and others under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Subsequently in 2022, the CBI registered five more criminal cases against Choksi and others for defrauding banks and financial institutions.
The CBI as the National Central Bureau (NCB) for Interpol had issued a diffusion to locate absconding Choksi in February, 2018.
The movements of the criminal were tracked by the CBI in close and direct coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies and he was geo-located to Antigua and Barbuda.
Extradition request against Choksi was sent through diplomatic channels to competent authorities of Antigua and Barbuda in August, 2018.
In 2018, Choksi approached the CCF requesting for non-publication of Red Notice. The CCF is a separate body within Interpol that is not under the control of Interpol Secretariat and is mainly staffed by elected lawyers from different countries.
The CCF had studied his request and consulted the CBI. The CCF had dismissed representation of Choksi and the Interpol published a Red Notice.
The Interpol had only published a Red notice against Choksi in December, 2018 on the request of CBI and ED. This was subsequent to geo-location by CBI of the wanted criminal and subsequent to initiation of extradition request.