The CBI was aware of fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi’s presence in the US in May 2018, before he escaped to Antigua on 8 July, using a local passport, internal sources told The Quint.
Sources have also revealed that US authorities via Interpol shared two US addresses with the agency where Choksi was allegedly hiding. One of the addresses belongs to Choksi’s relative.
On being notified of Choksi’s location in the US, the CBI wrote an extradition request to the US authorities via Interpol. But shockingly enough the request was allegedly delayed – with no action taken in May and June – reaching US authorities on 9 July, exactly a day after Choksi escaped to Antigua.
Had the US authorities received the extradition request before Choksi escaped to Antigua, they would’ve been under compulsion to stop him from leaving the country.
One of the criteria for sending an extradition request is: the investigating agency should’ve filed at least a charge sheet against the fugitive.
On 14 May, the CBI had filed a charge sheet against Nirav Modi, his uncle Mehul Choksi, and 20 others in the Punjab National Bank worth Rs 13,000 crores. But why the investigative agency chose to sit on the extradition request remains unknown.
Is someone tipping off Choksi about every move planned by the investigative agencies?
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The Quint had emailed the source-based information to the CBI, requesting a response on it, to which CBI spokesperson, Abhishek Dayal, responded saying:
“Matter related to extradition of Sh. Mahul Choksi is under process. Further information cannot be shared at this stage.”
CBI’s Unofficial Version
Before the e-mail response was mailed to The Quint, a senior CBI official rang us up after reading the source-based information mailed to them. He gave The Quint a different timeline of the correspondence between India and US over Choksi.
When we requested him to send the same timeline through an e-mail, he refused to provide any written record of it.
The timeline mentioned by the officer hints at the US authorities having given Choksi a safe passage to Antigua.
- The US authorities through Interpol informed India on 27 June and 2 July that Choksi is not in their country. This communication happened based on the letters written by the CBI earlier.
- On 14 July, the US again wrote to the CBI via Interpol and confirmed for the first time that Choksi is in US. By now Choksi had already escaped to Antigua.
- The CBI wrote back to the US, requesting them to share Choksi's address. The officer didn’t share the date of this letter.
- On 18 July, the US replied to the CBI, saying they can’t share the details of Choksi’s address on grounds of privacy.
Is the CBI unofficially trying to convey that the US authorities allowed Choksi to leave their country, despite knowing that he is wanted in India?
The Interpol has not yet issued a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Choksi. The CBI had claimed that the request for the issuance of RCN against Choksi and his nephew, Nirav Modi, were sent together to the Interpol.
While the RCN against Modi was issued on 2 July, the other one is still pending, though both of them are facing similar charges.
The CBI has not shared any reason for not issuing the RCN against Choksi so far.
On Friday, 3 August, the MEA received the extradition request from the CBI which will be eventually forwarded to the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda through diplomatic channels.
It should be noted that India doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda, hence bringing back Choksi to India could be a challenge for the country.
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