Mumbai: A special court Wednesday gave diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the PNB bank fraud case, time till October 30 to file his reply to an Enforcement Directorate (ED) plea seeking to declare him a “fugitive” under a new law. Earlier, the Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court had summoned Choksi before it on September 26 in connection with the ED’s plea to declare him a “fugitive” under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
Appearing before the court presided over by judge M S Azmi, Choksi’s lawyer Sanjay Abbot Wednesday said they have been provided a copy of the ED’s complaint in the USD 2 billion fraud case and need some time to file a reply. Following this, the judge adjourned the matter to October 30 for filing the reply.
The financial crime probe agency had moved the court seeking to declare Choksi and his nephew and diamond trader Nirav Modi as “fugitive economic offenders” and nod to confiscate their assets worth Rs 3,500 crore. The court Tuesday asked Nirav Modi to file his reply on October 29 in the matter. The probe agency, empowered to enforce the new law enacted by the NDA government to curb big economic crimes and check the escape of perpetrators from India, had filed two separate applications against Nirav Modi and Choksi.
The law is aimed at deterring economic offenders from evading the process of law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. It seeks to expedite recovery of losses incurred by banks and other entities by confiscating their properties. The ED seeks to confiscate their assets, both movable and immovable, including those located in the UK and the UAE.
The move has been made on the basis of two charge sheets filed by the agency under the PMLA against the diamond jewellers, who are currently abroad. Nirav Modi and Choksi are being investigated by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after it was detected that they allegedly cheated PNB (Punjab National Bank) of more than Rs 13,400 crore with the purported involvement of a few of its employees.
The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies. Two criminal complaints were filed by the ED in these instances after taking cognisance of CBI FIRs. Non-bailable warrants were issued against Nirav Modi and Choksi. Also, an Interpol ‘red corner’ arrest warrant has been issued against Nirav Modi on the ED’s request.