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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

CBI files 3 fresh FIRs against Mehul Choksi in PNB Fraud Case

The CBI has filed three new cases against fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi for allegedly defrauding several banks including Punjab National Bank and ICICI Bank to the tune of ₹6,746 crores.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed three new cases against fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi for allegedly defrauding several banks including Punjab National Bank and ICICI Bank to the tune of ₹6,746 crores, people familiar with the development said.

The first case, registered on Wednesday, against Choksi, his firm Gitanjali Gems Ltd and its senior executives, pertains to defrauding a consortium of 28 banks led by ICICI Bank of ₹5,564 crores between 2010 and 2018. It is alleged that Choksi and others accused according to the FIR, “participated in falsification of accounts, siphoning off funds and utilization of sanctioned credit limits not for genuine business transactions”.

Another case, also filed on Wednesday, relates to defrauding a consortium of nine member banks led by Punjab National Bank (PNB) of ₹807 crores by Choksi, his firm Nakshatra Brands Ltd and others between 2010 and 2018 by diverting funds.

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The third FIR relates to defrauding PNB of funds worth ₹375 crores by Choksi and his firm Gili India Ltd during the same period.

Reacting to the cases, Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said, “As per the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) manual and the circular issued by the Finance Ministry on May 13, 2015, there can be only one consolidated First Information Report (FIR) against one group of companies.

Registering a separate FIR for each loan is a witch hunt akin to filing a separate FIR for each brick in the case of an illegal wall.”

The Anti-Corruption Investigation Agency has so far registered at least seven separate FIRs against Čoksi and his companies/associates since 2018. She also filed several allegations.

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The fugitive businessman currently resides in Antigua and Barbuda, from where he fled immediately after noticing the ₹13,578 crores Punjab National Bank fraud in 2018 (in which his nephew Nirav Modi is a co-accused). Is accused of defrauding a public sector bank of ₹6,097 crores, while another investigation into a ₹942 crore fraud by his firm Asmi Jewelry is also underway.

In May last year, he mysteriously landed in Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean. The Indian government tried to deport him instead of a lengthy extradition process to Antigua, where he is a citizen. However, Indian agencies were unable to retrieve him from Dominica.

Dominica dropped illegal entry proceedings against Mehul Choksi following a report by the Royal Antiguan Police that said the businessman had been kidnapped from the country.

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