Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi has gone missing in Antigua and Barbuda, where he had been staying since January 2018, the Royal Police Force of the Caribbean nation said on Tuesday. The 62-year-old is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the over Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case.
The police said they have launched an operation to find Choksi. They also posted a photograph of the businessman on Facebook, seeking information from the public.
Choksi was last seen on Sunday around 5.15 pm in his car which was recovered by the police. “Based on additional information received the police have conducted numerous searches but to no avail,” the force said. “Mehul is described as being of Indian descent, brown in complexion, five feet six inches (5’6) in height, heavily built with a balding hairline.”
Choksi’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, also told ANI that his client was missing. “His family members are worried and anxious and had called me to discuss,” he added. “Antigua police is investigating. Family is in the dark and worried about his safety.”
Choksi had left his home to go for dinner at a well-known restaurant in the southern part of the island nation and was never seen again, ANI reported, citing local media.
In August 2018, he claimed he had “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean. In January 2019, Choksi had surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Punjab National Bank fraud came to light in February 2018 when the bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange 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 his nephew Nirav Modi’s companies. The bank later raised its estimate of the value of the fraud to over Rs 13,000 crore.
Last month, United Kingdom’s Home Minister Priti Patel had approved the extradition of Modi to India, where he will face trial. He was arrested on March 19, 2019, and has been lodged in London’s Wandsworth jail.