A day after reports emerged that PNB fraud accused Mehul Choksi may have taken refuge in Antigua, the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua & Barbuda confirmed Choksi's presence in the Caribbean island nation, saying that the fugitive diamantaire obtained his Antiguan citizenship last year.
"After extensive vetting, Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship by registration in November 2017," the CIU said. Antigua is one of the two major Caribbean islands that make up the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
"...Choksi's application was subject to robust due diligence international investigation, which is conducted on each principal applicant and dependent, by reputable agencies, including the International Criminal Police Organization and the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS)," it said.
The CIU added that 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information about Choksi. The CIU also confirmed that on January 15, 2018, Choksi swore the Oath of Allegiance in Antigua, a requirement under the provisions of the Citizenship by Investment Act.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reportedly written to the authorities in island nation seeking details on diamond merchant Mehul Choksi. Antigua is one of the two major Caribbean islands that make up the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
On Tuesday, India Today TV reported the probe agencies came to know about the whereabouts of the Choksi, one of the accused in the Rs 13,700-crore PNB fraud, just a day before he landed at the VC Bird International airport in Antigua on July 8 when they officially approached the US authorities.
The report quoted sources saying he boarded JetBlue flight for Antigua, and that he didn't use Indian passport as he had acquired the Antiguan passport.
After the Interpol issued a diffusion notice against Choksi, the authorities in the Caribbean country have also confirmed to the Enforcement Directorate about Choksi's arrival in the country.
Mehul Choksi, as well as his partner Nirav Modi, fled the country in the first week of January, just two weeks before PNB first reported about the biggest banking scam.
The ED had filed chargesheet against Choksi and 13 others in the PNB scam on June 28 under the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering) Act. Choksi and Modi are accused of defrauding the public lender by illegally obtaining Letter of Undertaking (LoUs)/Foreign Letters of Credit (FLCs).
According to the ED, three companies of Mehul Choksi namely -- Gitanjali Gems Ltd, Gili India Ltd and Nakshatra Brands Ltd -- were fraudulently issued LoUs to the tune of Rs 3,011.39 crore, and fraudulently got the credit limit of these FLCs enhanced to the tune of Rs 3,086.24 crore. Total proceeds of the crime now stand at Rs 6,097.63 crore.
The special PMLA court in Mumbai issued a non-bailable warrant against diamond merchant Mehul Choksi and five others on July 6.