The Enforcement Directorate on Monday filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, claiming that diamond merchant Mehul Choksi had displayed his disregard for law by deliberately evading summons, PTI reported.
The directorate said Choksi’s claim about health problems was a facade, and pointed out that he can seek treatment in India. Choksi, who is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,000 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi, had told the Bombay High Court in April that he was unable to return to India because of health complications.
The agency said the diamond merchant was a “fugitive and absconder” and his Antiguan citizenship showed he had no intention to return to India for the inquiry against him.
The agency said Choksi siphoned and laundered around Rs 6,097 crore in the alleged scam at Punjab National Bank that was unearthed in February 2018. Choksi has said he does not intend to cooperate with the investigation, according to the Enforcement Directorate.
The agency sought the dismissal of the businessman’s two pleas – one against the Enforcement Directorate’s petition seeking his declaration as a fugitive economic offender, and the other to allow him to cross-examine the persons whose statements form the basis of the agency’s petition. The court will take up the petitions for hearing on Tuesday.
“It is apparent that the applicant [Choksi] has left India to avoid criminal prosecution for the offence of money laundering under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and continues to refuse to return to India to face criminal prosecution,” the directorate said in its affidavit. “The sole purpose of the [Fugitive Economic Offenders] Act is to compel the fugitive to return to India and face the proceedings initiated against him.”
In January, he surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua and Barbuda. This came five months after he claimed to have “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean.