The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected petitions by Mehul Choksi, an accused in the PNB scam case, challenging the Directorate of Enforcement’s (ED) application seeking to declare him a fugitive economic offender (FEO).
Choksi is an accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, along with diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is the promoter of Gitanjali Gems. Choksi and Modi have been accused of getting letters of undertaking (LoU) and foreign letters of credit (FLC) of Rs 12,636 crore issued in favour of foreign branches of Indian banks based on fraudulent claims.
Extradition process against Choksi underway
Nirav Modi was declared FEO by a special court in December 2019 and the extradition process against him is underway.
Justice Sarang Kotwal dismissed the petitions saying he did not find any infirmity in the application filed by the ED. “Firstly, I do not find any infirmity in the verification (in the application) and even otherwise I find that all the requirements under section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders (FEO) Act and under Rule 3 of the FEO Rules are properly complied with in this case,” the HC said.
NIA properly complied with all the rules: Bombay HC
In a detailed order, the high court held that the investigating agency had “properly complied” with all the Rules laid under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018.
The HC was hearing an appeal filed by Choksi challenging the August 2019 order passed by a special court saying it would hear the application filed by the ED seeking to declare Choksi a FEO.
In July 2018, the ED had filed the application seeking to declare Choksi a FEO and confiscation of his properties. As per the FEO Act, a person can be declared FEO if a warrant has been issued against him for an offence involving an amount of Rs 100 crore or more and if the person has left the country and refuses to return.
Choksi had then approached the HC challenging the ED’s application, filing two pleas including one seeking dismissal of the central agency’s application and the other seeking permission to cross-examine the investigating officers and persons on whose statements the probing agency relied to declare Choksi an FEO.
Last month, the agency had also approached the High Court seeking to review the HC’s stay on the proceedings to declare Choksi as FEO.
Justice Kotwal observed the preamble of the FEO Act was significant as it states that this is an Act to provide for measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
In January 2020, following the plea by Choksi, the high court granted interim relief to Choksi by restraining the special court from pronouncing its final order in the ED’s application seeking to declare Choksi as an FEO.
The interim relief was vacated on Thursday.