Gitanjali Gems Chairman Mehul Choksi has cited health reasons for his inability to return to India. On February 24, the government had revoked the passports of both Mehul Choksi and his partner Nirav Modi for defrauding public sector banks, including the Punjab National Bank. In a letter to the CBI, Choksi not only refused to return but also asked Mumbai's Regional Passport Office (RPO) to explain on what basis his passport was revoked.
Choksi has written to the premier agency saying he had a cardiac procedure in February. "I am also not in a position to travel due to my persisting health problem. I had a cardiac procedure which was conducted in the first week of February 2018 and there is still pending work to be done on the same. The entire procedure could not be completed on all veins due to danger to kidney and therefore I am not allowed to travel for at least a period of four to six months," he said in an email.
'Media trial, political bashing creating biased opinion'
The BJP-led ruling government and the Opposition parties have accused each other of harbouring big businessmen, and letting them slip out of the country whenever they commit frauds. Choksi has accused Indian political parties using the issue to "glorify their own interest". He said news reports, statements by political parties, and continuous media trial have achieved nothing except creating a biased popular opinion. Therefore, he said, the entire situation makes it difficult for him to return to the country.
Choksi added that since his passport stands suspended under Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, it's not possible for him to come back. Questioning the rationale behind the passport suspension, he said since he had not been given any explanation, it is the violation of his Constitutional Rights.
GJEPC may suspend Modi, Choksi from council
The Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has again issued a show-cause notice to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi over the allegation of frauds committed by their companies. Both of them did not reply to the earlier notice in February. "If they do not send any explanation by Friday, we will approach our disciplinary committee and begin the process of suspending them from the council," PTI quoted GJEPC Vice Chairman, Colin Shah, as saying.
Apart from assuring to pursue the matter according to the legal process, Shah said the council had submitted suggestions to the government to make the financial irregularities related norms more stringent. "We are meeting with officials in the commerce, finance ministries and bankers and have submitted our suggestions last week on how to strengthen the processes to avoid any kind of fraudulent practices in future. Discussions are on and we hope something concrete will come up within a few weeks," said Shah.
The gems and jewellery industry comprises several thousand small and mid-sizes entities, and contributes to 7 per cent of the country's GDP. Around 15 per cent of India's merchandise exports are gems and jewellery items, and the entire sector employs more than 4.5 million people of the country. With the PSBs tightening their loan disbursal policies, SMEs could face trouble in getting even small loans.
Absconding diamond businessman Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi are being probed by several investigative agencies after the PNB scam came to light. Several bank employees involved in the scam have been nabbed already. Diamond merchant Nirav Modi is accused of availing loans, estimated to top Rs 12,700 crore, via fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoU). The loans were acquired from foreign branches of Indian banks against these LoUs, but were never paid back. The entire web of scams related to both the businessmen came to light after the PNB complained to the CBI in February.