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Choking off Choksi's Fraud: From Gujarat Trader's Son to India's 'Wanted', Tracking Diamantaire's Thrilling Flight

File photo of Mehul Choksi. (PTI)

File photo of Mehul Choksi. (PTI)

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that he has asked Dominica to hand Mehul Choksi over to India directly.

Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi was captured in neighbouring Dominica after he fled from Antigua and Barbuda, the local media reported on Wednesday. Police in Dominica captured 62-year-old businessman on Tuesday night (local time) after an Interpol Yellow Notice was issued against him by Antigua and Barbuda.

The Yellow Notice is issued by the Interpol to track missing persons involved in any case. Choksi is wanted in a Rs 13,500 crore loan fraud in the Punjab National Bank (PNB). He was reported “missing" by his family members and lawyer Vijay Aggarwal after he went for dinner in his car in Antigua and Barbuda on Sunday and didn’t return.

WHO IS MEHUL CHOKSI

Born on May 5, 1959 in Mumbai, he completed his education from GD Modi College in Gujrat’s Palanpur. His father named Chinubhai Choksi was a diamond trader and was operating Gitanjali Gems. It is being said that Mehul Choksi always wanted to be a big businessman.

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After completing his education, he worked with his father to learn more about gems and diamonds. Later, he took over the family business and worked aggressively to expand it.

EXPANSION OF HIS DIAMOND BUSINESS

Choksi started working hard to make Gitanjali Gems a famous diamond jewellery chain in the world. Initially, he began trading in rough and polished diamonds and soon became one of the top exporters of raw diamonds in India and other countries of the world.

After this huge success, he made an entry into the jewellery business and launched several brands, which were said to be a big hit among rich class in 1990s and early 2000s.

According to a report published in India Today, the Gitanjali Gems purchased Samuel Jewelers Inc in 2006 along with its 111 expensive stores with some in the United States, which helped Choksi to do business directly with US from India and other countries.

Impressed by Choksi’s success story in diamond business, his Antwerp-based nephew Nirav Modi, who was already in the same business line, came to Mumbai in India to learn trading trick from him. Reportedly, Choksi already had an established partnership with Modi’s firms such as Diamonds R, Stellar Diamonds and Solar Exports.

HOW HE LOOTED PNB

Quoting sources, India Today reported that Choksi started selling poor quality of diamonds as original diamonds. Further, they transferred and routed money from one company’s account to another company’s account.

In 2016 and 2017, the Gitanjali Group of companies’ profit faced a huge loss and to deal with this, Choksi and Modi planned a conspiracy to siphon off money from state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB).

Both allegedly bribed a PNB employee named Gokulnath Shetty to forge the letter of undertaking after which they siphoned off Rs 13,500 crore of public money from the PNB in 2017.

Sensing that he will be caught by the probe agencies one day, Choksi managed to get clearance report from Mumbai Police in the same year, stating that he has no pending criminal case against him in India.

In January 2018, he fled from India for USA, just few days before Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed an FIR against Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi and others.

PROBE BEGINS

A Mumbai court in June 2018 issued a non-bailable warrant against Choksi. When Indian authorities reached out to US authorities for his extradition, it came to know that he had left the US in May 2018 and now he taken citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.

Soon Indian authorities approached Antigua and Barbuda government and initiated Choksi’s extradition proceedings.

MEHUL CHOKSI CAPTURED IN DOMINICA

After reports emerged that Choksi is “missing" in Antigua and Barbuda, he was captured by police in Dominica.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that he has asked Dominica to hand the diamantaire over to India directly. “We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him," Antigua News Room, a media outlet, quoted Browne’s interaction with journalists in Antigua and Barbuda.

Efforts are on now to bring back Choksi to India.

However, Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal has now claimed that “marks of torture" have been reported on Choksi’s body. “I have been told that there are marks of torture on the body. Now, we are trying our very best in Dominica for legal recourse so that he is sent back to Antigua," Aggarwal told news agency ANI.

The lawyer further claimed that Choksi was forcefully picked from Antigua and then taken to Dominica. “…He (Choksi) has narrated that he was picked up by various people from jolly harbour in Antigua. And then he was taken to Dominica. And he was there on Sunday and then he was taken to the police station on Monday," he said.

Meanwhile, Modi is contesting his extradition lodged in a London jail after repeated denial of his bail by courts. The scam came to light subsequently. Both are facing a CBI probe.

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