Entrepreneur Mehul Choksi on Friday told the Bombay Hight Court that he cannot be declared a fugitive in India as he had left the country before a first information report was filed against him, Bar and Bench reported. Choksi also claimed that he cannot be categorised as a “fugitive accused” as he had not left the country to avoid any criminal proceedings against him.

Choksi is wanted in connection with the Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case. The businessman’s counsel has said that Choksi is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda and has been staying there since 2018.

The businessman on Friday urged the Bombay High Court to temporarily halt the proceedings to declare him a fugitive as requested by the Enforcement Directorate.

Choksi’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal and Ayush Jindal told the court that the his medical condition was also one of the reasons preventing him from attending the proceedings in India.

The lawyers also said that the proceedings should be put on hold because of the conditions set by the High Court of Commonwealth of Dominica, according to Bar and Bench.

Choksi noted that he had been allowed to be treated in Antigua and Barbuda but after he is cleared as medically fit for travel, he would have to return to Dominica to face the inquiry against him.

Aggarwal also said that the court could not say that Choksi was intentionally refusing to return to India as the businessman will return to Dominica to face the charges against him, Bar and Bench reported.

The businessman had illegally entered Dominica in May, following which the island nation’s government declared him a prohibited immigrant. Choksi had alleged that he was abducted and taken to Dominica to be interviewed by an Indian politician.

On July 12, he got bail on medical grounds to get help from a neurologist based in Antigua.

Meanwhile, during the proceedings in the Bombay High Court on Friday, the Enforcement Directorate opposed Choksi’s application. The agency requested the court for time to file a detailed reply.

The hearing will continue on December 21.

The PNB case

The PNB fraud came to light in February 2018 when the bank informed the BSE that it had detected “fraudulent and unauthorised transactions” worth Rs 11,380 crore at a branch in South Mumbai. A few officials of the public sector bank had allegedly issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking to fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s companies.

The bank later raised its estimate of the value of the fraud to over Rs 13,000 crore.

Choski had fled India in January 2018, a few weeks before the PNB fraud came to light. But in June 2019, he told the Bombay High Court that he left India for a medical check-up and not because of the scam.

In August 2018, Choksi claimed he had “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean.