Fugitive diamond merchan Mehul Choksi — one of India’s most wanted in connection with the Punjab National Bank loan fraud case — has been captured from Dominica while trying to flee to Cuba, sources have said. The 62-year-old had gone missing earlier this week from the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where he fled in 2018.
His disappearance came amid efforts to extradite him by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, which are investigating the Rs 14,000 crore fraud at India’s second largest state owned bank.
Sources said Mehul Choksi had reached Dominica — a tiny island nation in the Caribbean — by boat. With a lookout circular issued against him, he was caught by the local police and is currently in their custody.
The process of handing him over to the Antigua authorities is on and the CBI and ED have been informed that he has been found, sources said. Sources in the CBI said his attempt to flee will make their case stronger in Antiguan courts and they are confident that he would be in India sooner.
Earlier, there was no official confirmation from Antigua that Mehul Choksi was missing.
The island nation’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne had said he had “no reliable information till date” that Mr Choksi fled the country. A hunt for him started after he was reported missing by a family member.
Prime Minister Browne had said Mr Choksi has two cases against him in Antigua courts — extradition and revocation of citizenship. He had brought in a well-known lawyer from the UK which showed his willingness to stay and contest the cases.
Mr Choksi’s lawyer had also denied the possibility that he would flee the country. “The family is worried about his safety. We are keeping a watch on developments,” advocate Vijay Aggarwal was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Mehul Choksi and his nephew, celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, had skipped India in January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam surfaced. Later, it became known that he had taken citizenship of Antigua two months before the scam surfaced.
Mehul Choksi has claimed that the cases against him are a result of political conspiracy, and his properties in India were illegally attached by the Enforcement Directorate.