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Mehul Choksi on why he has not been able to return to India

Source: PTI
May 23, 2024 21:28 IST
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Diamantaire Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the multi-crore PNB scam, has told a special court in Mumbai that he hasn't been able to return to India “due to reasons beyond his control” and hence cannot be declared a “fugitive economic offender”.

Mehul Choksi

Photograph: PTI Photo from the Rediff Archives

The accused has claimed that he didn't leave India to avoid criminal prosecution nor is he refusing to return to the country.

He said his passport has been suspended by Indian authorities.


The businessman made these claims in an application filed on Wednesday before a special PMLA court, seeking directions for summoning documents concerning the suspension of his passport and investigation files of the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) case against him.

The current proceedings against Choksi pertain to ED's plea to declare him a fugitive economic offender (FEO) and these documents need to be summoned “for fair adjudication of the matter”, said the plea filed through advocate Vijay Agarwal.

As per the Fugitive Economic Offender Act, 2018, the plea said, a “fugitive economic offender” is an individual against whom a court in India has issued an arrest warrant over a scheduled offence and he has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or refuses to return to the country to face criminal prosecution.

According to the plea, ED's application shows that none of the two conditions has been satisfied to declare Choksi an FEO.

“It is the specific case of the present applicant (Choksi) that he has neither left India to avoid criminal prosecution nor is he refusing to return to India to face criminal prosecution, but has been unable to return due to reasons beyond his control,” the plea said.

Choksi claimed that in February 2018, in response to the summons issued against him for appearing before the probe agency, he had replied to the ED that "he is unable to return to India as his passport has been suspended by the Indian authorities”.

The accused, in his plea, has attached a notice issued to him by the passport office which cites “security threat to India” as the reason for the suspension of his passport.

In such circumstances, the ED's stand that Choksi is not returning to India is vitiated as he cannot be expected to return when his passport has been suspended, the application stated.

Therefore, for adjudication of the present matter (plea to declare him FEO), it is necessary that the reason and documents showing the suspension of Choksi's passport be brought on record, it said.

Similarly, his plea said that the court must summon the investigation file to see if any evidence is available with ED to show that the accused was “aware of the alleged bank fraud being unearthed and therefore, left the country to avoid the same”.

It assumes significance as Choksi's stand has been that he had left India for his medical check-up and treatment, much prior to the registration of any FIR or ED's case, the application said.

Hence, the investigation file needs to be summoned for “fair adjudication” of the matter, the plea added.

The court dealing with cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has sought ED's reply to Choksi's plea and adjourned the matter for hearing on June 3.

Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted by the ED and the CBI for allegedly defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of Rs 13,400 crore in collusion with a few bank staffers.

The ED had moved the special PMLA court, seeking Choksi to be declared a “fugitive economic offender” for allegedly evading summons to appear before the agency and for his properties to be confiscated under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.

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