Diamond merchant Mehul Choksi, who is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,000 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi, told the Bombay High Court on Monday that he left India for a medical check-up and not because of the scam, PTI reported.
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.
In the affidavit filed through his advocate Vijay Aggarwal on Monday, Choksi reiterated his claims that he is unable to return to India because of health problems. The Enforcement Directorate had earlier this month called these claims a facade, and pointed out that he can seek treatment in India.
“I have not left the country under suspicious circumstances,” Choksi said in the affidavit. “I undertake to travel to India as soon as I am medically fit to travel.”
“I am currently residing in Antigua and willing to co-operate in the investigation,” he added, according to ANI. “If court may deem it fit, it may direct the investigating officer to travel to Antigua.”
Choksi’s affidavit was in connection with two petitions he has filed in the High Court – 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.
Earlier this month, the Enforcement Directorate told the court that 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 off and laundered around Rs 6,097 crore in the alleged scam at Punjab National Bank that was unearthed in February 2018.
“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 had said. “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.”