The Enforcement Directorate has rejected diamond merchant Mehul Choksi’s offer to join the inquiry into the alleged Punjab National Bank scam in Antigua, The Economic Times reported on Friday. The agency requested the Bombay High Court to direct Choksi to return to India at the earliest.
The agency said it was willing to provide an air ambulance with medical experts to bring Choksi from Antigua and provide him all necessary treatment in India, according to ANI. Choksi has cited poor health as a reason for not coming to India.
The Enforcement Directorate, in a counter affidavit, said the affidavit filed by Choksi in which he claimed that he is unable to return to India because of health problems appeared to be “facades being erected merely to mislead the court in an obvious attempt to delay the lawful proceedings”, ANI reported.
Choksi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,000 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi. 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.
On Monday, Choksi told the Bombay High Court that he left India for a medical check-up and not because of the alleged scam.
The agency asked the court to direct Choksi to file an affidavit on his intentions to return to India at the earliest, preferably within a month from the date of the order. The agency said Choksi should mention the date of his intended return, according to ANI.
The Enforcement Directorate said Choksi was given several opportunities to join the inquiry, but he had evaded questioning. “Choksi claims that his assets worth Rs 6,129 crore have been seized, it is wrong because during probe Enforcement Directorate has attached assets worth Rs 2,100 crore assets,” the agency said.
The agency said Choksi never cooperated in the inquiry. He refused to return after a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued and a Red Corner Notice by the Interpol. “He is therefore, a fugitive and an absconder.”
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.