The Interpol had earlier on several occasions dismissed the plea of fugitive criminal diamantaire Mehul Choksi who is wanted in Rs 13,000 crore fraud case in Punjab National Bank, the CBI said in a statement.
"Facing possibilities of imminent extradition from Antigua and Barbuda, Choksi again with a view to create diversions from the ongoing process and derail the ongoing extradition proceedings, with false claims, concocted dramatic stories and imaginary narratives, approached various international forums and also approached Commission for Control of Interpol's Files (CCF) in July 2022 to revise its earlier decision of 2020.
CCF consulted the CBI and the ED on the matter and the factual situation on the narrative of Choksi being wholly unsubstantiated and without an iota of evidence were put forth to the CCF. It was clarified that Choksi had been making all possible attempts to derail ongoing extradition proceedings in Antigua and Barbuda, to evade the process of law in India," the agency stated.
"However, based on mere imaginary conjunctures and unproven surmises, a five member CCF chamber has taken a decision on deletion of Red Notice, communicated in November, 2022. Thereafter, CBI has taken up with CCF the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, overreach of mandate and mistakes committed by CCF in the manner of reaching this unfounded and perfunctory decision," said a senior CBI official.
A case was registered against Mehul Choksi and others on February 15, 2018 for defrauding Punjab National Bank. The CBI has already filed two charge sheets in the case against Choksi and others under sections 120-B read with 409, 420, 477A, 201 of IPC and sections 7 & 13(2) read with 13(1)(c)&(d) of PC Act.
In 2022, the CBI registered five more criminal cases against Choksi and others for defrauding banks and financial institutions. "The CBI as National Central Bureau for Interpol had issued a diffusion to locate Choksi in February 2018.
The movements of the criminal were tracked by the CBI in close direct coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies and he was geo-located to Antigua and Barbuda. Extradition request against Choksi was sent through diplomatic channels to competent authorities of Antigua and Barbuda in August 2018," the official said.
In 2018, Choksi approached CCF making a request for non-publication of Red Notice. CCF is a separate body within Interpol that is not under the control of Interpol Secretariat and is mainly staffed by elected lawyers from different countries. CCF had studied his request and consulted the CBI. CCF dismissed representation of Choksi and Interpol published a Red Notice.
Interpol published a Red Notice against Choksi in December 2018 on request of the CBI and the ED. This was subsequent to geo-location by the CBI of wanted criminal and subsequent to initiation of extradition request.
The purpose of a Red Notice issued by Interpol was to seek location of a wanted person and to seek their detention, arrest or restriction of movement for purpose of extradition, surrender or similar action.
"It may be noted that Choksi was already located prior to publication of Interpol Red Notice and steps also initiated for his extradition. Although the primary purpose of Red Notice was already achieved, the same was retained as a precautionary measure.
As the extradition proceedings against Choksi were proceeding in Antigua and Barbuda, Choksi had been approaching various international forums with fully concocted and imaginary narratives to create diversions. In 2019, Choksi again approached CCF seeking removal of Red Notice. CCF studied his request, consulted the CBI and based on inputs, again in 2020, dismissed his plea," the CBI said.
Later on, when he again reached the Interpol and concerned authorities, a decision was taken in his favour. Thereafter, CBI took up with CCF the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, overreach of mandate and mistakes committed by CCF in the manner of reaching this unfounded and perfunctory decision.
CBI continues to exercise available remedial and appellate options within Interpol for rectification of this faulty decision and for restoration of Red Notice. CBI pointed out that even Antigua authorities consider there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that the applicant concealed material facts or made false representation when he applied for his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship, a fact which reflects on previous conduct of this criminal.
CCF has subsequently clarified to CBI that its decision in no manner has any determination on any guilt or innocence of Mehul Chinubhai Choksi for crimes he remains charged in India. CCF has reiterated that it has not established factual certainties and there is no factual finding in their decision that Choksi will not have fair trial. Based on new information and serious errors in the decision, CBI is taking steps for the decision of CCF to be revised.
The CBI remains in active communication with CCF and other bodies in Interpol in an ongoing process relating to this case. It may be noted that an Interpol Red Notice is neither a pre requisite nor a requirement for extradition proceedings.
The Global Operations Centre of CBI continues to closely monitor movements of wanted criminals like Mehul Choksi in close direct coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies and not reliant only on Interpol channels. Extradition request made by India is under active consideration before authorities in Antigua and Barbuda and remains fully unimpacted by Red Notice related communications with Interpol.
The CBI remains committed seeking return of fugitives and criminals to India to face process of criminal justice. Systematic steps have been initiated in close coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies for geo-locating and return of wanted criminals and economic offenders. In the last 15 months, over 30 wanted criminals have returned to India.