New Delhi: The Antigua government has said fugitive Indian jeweller Mehul Choksi was given citizenship of the Carribean country after “stringent background checks” and clearance certificate by Mumbai Police and the External Affairs Ministry. The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of Antigua and Barbuda, however, said while conducting background checks on Choksi, it found that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had initiated investigations against him twice. But the cases, according to India’s market regulator, had been closed. In a detailed statement, the citizenship authority said the businessman’s application was received in May 2017 with necessary documentary requirements, including a police clearance certificate.
The CIU statement, shared by Antigua Observer newspaper on its website, said these facts were being made public “in an effort to provide clarity and address misinformation that has been circulating in the public domain”. These checks include open source Internet checks, Thompson Reuters World-Check, queries of various sanctions lists, engagement with regional and international intelligence agencies like Interpol as well as contracted third party due diligence providers. The statement said the CIU received documentation of two instances in which the SEBI, in 2014 and 2017, opened investigations on a corporate entity owned by Choksi. “None of these matters is the subject of the current warrants issued by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) in connection with the Punjab National Bank. It was also observed that (a) 2016 non-bailable warrant (against Choksi) was discontinued in October 2016.” The CIU also dismissed a reported claim by the CBI that indicated that the Interpol had made no direct contact with the Antigua authorities on Choksi.
The statement said the notice of the ongoing criminal investigation for defrauding the Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore against Choksi was first issued by Indian authorities on January 31, 2018. It said the CIU had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that Choksi was a fit and proper candidate for the grant of citizenship as allowed under the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship By Investment Act. (IANS)