PNB scam: Mehul Choksi chose Antigua for business interest

BUSINESSMAN Mehul Choksi, who is one of the main accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, said he chose Antigua for citizenship as he wanted to expand his business in the Caribbean.

Choksi, through his lawyer, said he applied for citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment programme.

“My application is motivated by my desire to expand my business interest in the Caribbean and to obtain visa-free travel access to 130 or so countries,” the fugitive businessman said in a statement.

According to reports, Choksi was granted Antigua citizenship in November and he took an oath of allegiance as a citizen of the country on January 15. He left India in the first week of January, weeks before India’s investigating agency filed a case against him and his nephew Nirav Modi over a Rs 13,500 crore fraud.

Choksi has refused to return to India saying he fears for his life due to the recent trend of mob lynchings in the country.

“The fact that there are various reported cases of mob lynching in India and the recent trend of mob lynching is growing, it has been stated in the application that the existing employees whose salaries and dues have not been paid because of freezing of the accounts, the families of detained employees who have been arrested without any rhyme or reason, the landlords, whose premises have been taken on rent by the companies, who have not been paid their dues, the customers, whose jewellery in showroom have been taken away by the Enforcement Directorate and the creditors of supplies and services, who have not been paid their dues have grievances and anger against Mehul Choksi,” said Choksi’s lawyer Sanjay Abbot.

Choksi, who owns Gitanjali Gems, has not paid his employees since the scandal erupted. In February, he penned a letter to his staff members saying he won’t be able to clear his dues as his accounts were frozen.

Choksi said: “I am constrained to write the present email to you all concerned, as a situation of fear and injustice has been created against me and our organization. But, now, with false allegations levelled against me of defrauding the PNB Bank and [the ensuing] media frenzy, the situation has gone grave, which is turning graver by day.

“It is very tough for me, as of now, to be clearing your dues or to pay the future salaries, in view of the seizing of various bank accounts and other properties by the government agencies/investigating agencies,” Choksi added.

Choksi also blamed India’s investigating agencies of creating “a havoc, hell bent upon stopping the operations”.

The businessman added that he was committed to clearing the past dues of his employees once things return to normalcy.