By Abhirup Roy
ST. JOHN, Antigua, Weds. May 26, 2021 (Reuters) – Police in Antigua and Barbuda say they have intensified a search for fugitive Indian-born jeweller Mehul Choksi, who went missing on Sunday, and have requested international police coordination agency Interpol to issue a global alert.
Indian federal police have filed fraud charges against Choksi, his nephew, Nirav Modi, and others in connection with their suspected involvement in fraudulent transactions that led to losses of about $2 billion for India’s Punjab National Bank (PNB).
PNB in 2018 alleged that a few rogue employees had issued fake bank guarantees over several years to help jewellery groups – controlled by Modi and Choksi – raise funds in foreign credit.
Modi and Choksi left India before the fraud came to light but have denied any wrongdoing and have said in letters and statements they were innocent.
Modi was arrested in London in 2019 and is fighting extradition to India. Choksi has been living in the Caribbean nation.
Investigators have interviewed several relatives and associates of Choksi for information on his “sudden disappearance” and asked regional counterparts for assistance, the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda said in a statement late on Tuesday.
Choksi was last seen on Sunday evening before leaving home in a car, which has since been recovered, the police said, in a notice seeking information from the public.
The police said they had shared Choksi’s details with Interpol for a “yellow notice”, a global police alert for a missing person, to be circulated.
Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Parliament there was no reliable information to confirm that Choksi had left the country, according to a video posted by media outlet Antigua Newsroom.
“It is likely that he may still be here,” Browne said, adding that Choksi was fighting two cases in the country relating to his extradition and his citizenship.
Choksi’s family members are worried and are co-operating with the investigation, his lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, told Reuters. (Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Mumbai Editing by Robert Birsel)