New Delhi: The name of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi wanted in a Rs 13,000-crore scam in the Punjab National Bank is understood to have been removed from the Interpol database of Red Notices on the basis of his plea to the Lyon-headquartered agency, people in the know of the development said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) remained tight-lipped on the development.
A spokesperson for the diamantaire said the decision of Interpol to delete the Red Notice strengthens the claims of Choksi about his alleged kidnapping during his stay in Antigua.
The absconding diamond merchant had claimed that he was abducted by Indian agencies, a charge denied by the government.
The Red Notice is the highest form of alert issued by the 195-member country-strong Interpol to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
Requests seeking comments of the CBI remained unanswered.
The Interpol had issued the Red Notice against Choksi in 2018, nearly 10 months after he fled from India in January that year to take refuge in Antigua and Barbuda, where he had taken citizenship.
Choksi had challenged the CBI application seeking issuance of Red Notice against him, calling the case a result of political conspiracy, sources said. He had also raised questions on issues such as jail conditions in India, his personal safety and health, they added.
The matter had gone to a five-member Interpol committee’s court, called Commission for Control of Files, which had cleared the RCN (Red Notice) rejecting his contentions, sources said.
The CBI has charge-sheeted both Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi separately in the scam.
The agency, in its charge sheets, had alleged that Choksi swindled Rs 7,080.86 crore, making it one of the biggest banking scam in the country at over Rs 13,000 crore.
Nirav Modi allegedly siphoned Rs 6,000 crore. An additional loan default of over Rs 5,000 crore to Choksi’s companies is also a matter of probe under the CBI.
Choksi had disappeared from his sanctuary in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2021 to mysteriously appear in neighbouring Dominica where he was detained for illegal entry.
After news of Choksi being held in Dominica surfaced, India rushed a team of officials led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut to make every effort to bring him back on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice against him.
His lawyer in London Michael Polak, who filed a complaint with the Scotland Yard, said Choksi was removed from Antigua and Barbuda, where as a citizen he enjoys rights to approach the British Queen’s Privy Council as a last resort in cases on his citizenship and extradition to Dominica where these rights are not available to him.
India’s effort to bring Choksi back was unsuccessful as his lawyers moved with unprecedented agility to file a habeas corpus petition before the Dominica High Court which was admitted for hearing.
Their swift legal manoeuvres coupled with investigation into circumstances of his disappearance from Antigua blunted attempts of India to get Choksi deported from Dominica.
After 51 days in prison, Choksi, 62, was given bail by Dominica High Court July 2021 to travel back to Antigua to seek medical help from a neurologist based there with a provision that he will return to face trial when gets fitness clearance by his doctors.
Later, all the proceedings against Choksi of illegal entry into Dominica were dropped.