Mehul Choksi is a fugitive Indian businessman and the owner of Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery firm with 4,000 stores in India. Choksi is currently residing in Antigua and Barbuda where he holds citizenship. Choksi, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is wanted by Indian authorities in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam where it is alleged that the Choksi-Modi duo defrauded the bank of more than Rs 14,000 crore. An arrest warrant has been issued against Choksi and he is wanted in India for criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty including delivery of property, corruption, and money laundering.
Choksi was born in Mumbai on May 5, 1959. He went to G D Modi College in Palanpur, Gujarat. He has a son and two daughters. One of his daughters is married to Akash Mehta, an Antwerp-based diamond merchant. He is the maternal uncle of Nirav Modi. Choksi’s younger brother Chetan Chinubhai Choksi owned a diamond company named Diminco NV, which is based in Antwerp. The company defaulted on a $25.8 million to a subsidiary of ICICI Bank.
Choksi started his career in the gem and jewellery business in 1975 and took over the leadership of Gitanjali Gems from his father Chinubhai Choksi in 1985. At that time, the firm was focused on rough and polished diamonds.
A special PMLA court in March 2018 issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Choksi and his nephews Nirav Modi and Neeshal Modi. They allegedly colluded with the PNB Bank officials to defraud the bank of over Rs 14,000 crore. The scam is said to be the biggest in India’s banking history. PNB Bank officials at the Brady House branch in Fort, Mumbai issued fake Letters of Undertaking (LoUs). The LoUs were opened in favour of branches of Indian banks for the import of pearls for a period of one year, for which Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines lay out a total time period of 90 days from the date of shipment.
The guidelines were ignored by overseas branches of Indian banks. They failed to share any document/information with PNB, which was made available to them by the firms at the time of availing credit from them.
When did Mehul Choksi leave India?
Choksi fled the country in January 2018 to Antigua and Barbuda, few days before the PNB scam was uncovered.
Investigating agencies have registered several cases against him and have attached several thousand crores worth of properties till now. Government authorities are trying to get him extradited to India.
What is extradition?
The extradition process enables governments to bring fugitives who have fled their country to justice. It typically is enabled by a bilateral or multilateral treaty. Some states will extradite without a treaty, but those cases are rare.
Where is Mehul Choksi right now?
Mehul Choksi is currently in Dominica. In May-end, 2021, Choksi went missing from Antigua and Barbuda. He was reportedly captured in Dominica while he was trying to flee to Cuba in a boat. A Caribbean court stayed his repatriation from the Dominican Republic.