Three of India’s most infamous—Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi, and Vijay Mallya—are currently embroiled in legal battles for their freedom.
Choksi’s Antiguan citizenship will be revoked, extraditing him back to India. His alleged co-conspirator and nephew Nirav, imprisoned in London, will attend an extradition hearing via a video link. And Mallya, also involved in extradition proceedings, is currently opposing a bank consortium that is trying to liquidate his assets.
Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the media that his government will revoke Choksi’s citizenship and deport him to India.
“Choksi’s citizenship was processed, he got through. We do have recourse; his citizenship will be revoked, and he will be deported to India,” said Browne, according to The Times of India.
Browne added that Choksi has the right to appeal in Antiguan courts, but once he exhausts his legal options, he will be extradited.
In March, Choksi’s named co-conspirator, Nirav Modi, was arrested and imprisoned in London. He will attend a “routine remand hearing” via a video link from prison.
Mallya is fighting off a consortium of 12 banks that want to liquidate his assets and pay themselves back. Mallya’s lawyers say the lending banks have other remedies and have skipped due process by taking too extreme an action.
Choksi, Nirav, and the massive PNB scam
Diamantaires Nirav Modi (48) and uncle Mehul Choksi (60) are accused of running the largest banking scam in India’s history. The pair allegedly laundered around Rs 12,000 crore through fraudulent transactions at Punjab National Bank (PNB) between 2011 and 2017.
Two PNB employees also reportedly helped Nirav and Choksi steal from the bank by forging documents, skipping verification protocols, and not recording the transactions in the central banking system.
Through letters of undertaking that said foreign branches of PNB will be liable if Nirav and Choksi default on loans, the two PNB employees acquired Rs 4,000 crore from Allahabad Bank, Rs 2,000 crore each from Union Bank and Axis Bank, and Rs 1,000 crore from the State Bank of India.
The employees then issued this money as loans to Nirav and Choksi’s subsidiaries.
In 2018, PNB filed a police complaint against Nirav and Choksi, accusing them of fraud. This prompted a CBI investigation and an Enforcement Directorate (ED) seizure of the duo’s assets—diamonds, cars, and gold jewellery.
After the Indian government found out that Nirav and Choksi had fled to London, it suspended their passports. Interpol also issued a Red Corner Notice, or arrest warrant, against Nirav.
In 2019, Nirav was apprehended at Metro Bank. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid also approved ED’s request to extradite him to India.
Nirav’s legal team was pushing for bail, arguing that he won’t flee London; it said he is an upstanding, legal resident who pays taxes and has family ties in the city. The lawyers also said he is contesting the charges Indian authorities have levelled against him.
However, the UK High Court rejected bail, and Justice Ingrid Simler ordered him to remain in prison.
“The applicant has access to considerable financial resources, supported by an increase (bail bond security) offer of £2 million,” said Justice Simler, while explaining that Nirav has the means to abscond again.
The ED has also seized Rs 283.16 crore from four Swiss bank accounts in Nirav and his sister Purvi’s names. Indian authorities say this money is part of the proceeds from the PNB scam.
Choksi told authorities that he acquired Antiguan citizenship not to evade Indian law but to seek medical treatment, filing an affidavit stating the same.
He also said that once he is medically fit, he will return to India. To this, the ED told the Bombay High Court that it will arrange an air ambulance for Choksi.
Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines grounded for good
Vijay Mallya (62) owns United Breweries that produces the well-known Kingfisher beer. Mallya diversified his wealth by investing in a luxury airline, Kingfisher Airlines. He became synonymous with extravagance and excessive spending.
In 2012, the airline defaulted on a Rs 9,000 crore debt; soon, Indian agencies began investigating Mallya for “suspected diversion of funds and financial irregularities”. The lending banks also approached the Debt Recovery Tribunal against Mallya in 2016.
However, a few days prior to the banks heading to court, Mallya left the country on a diplomatic passport he’d acquired when he was appointed to the Rajya Sabha in 2010. When he touched down in London, Indian authorities suspended his passport.
Mallya initially owed the banks Rs 5,000 crore. However, with 11.5% interest over the years, he now owes Rs 12,000 crore. Business Today says the value of Mallya’s property that the ED seized amounts to only Rs 2,000 crore, but his stake in Kingfisher is worth Rs 15,000 crore.
Mallya is involved in extradition proceedings as the ED has requested the UK to deport him to India for trial. Mallya is fighting the extradition and appealing to the UK High Court.
In the meantime, the SBI-led consortium has petitioned the ED in a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court to release Mallya’s assets for “immediate” sale, so the banks can recover their debts.
However, Advocate Amit Desai representing Mallya said the consortium should have moved the Karnataka High Court as a civil matter.
“The consortium has other remedies. They should have gone before the civil forum and not come before this court… We have been suggesting for the last one year, appoint a retired judge, sell off everything,” said Desai, according to India Today.
Desai added that, in a civil court, even employees and other creditors can be compensated along with the banks.
Still, the ED has allowed the petition to go through because the consortium’s lawyer argued that Mallya has already been declared a criminal fugitive and, legally, only the lending banks are owed debts.
The Economic Times also reports that the ED has asked the court to get a guarantee from the banks that they will return the money to the ED or the court in the “unlikely event” that Mallya wins the trial.
The lending banks have promised to return the money to the Debt Recovery Tribunal in case Mallya goes free. All parties’ lawyers will have another chance to present their case on July 16.
Mallya’s peer, Jet Airways co-founder and former CEO Naresh Goyal, is facing an investigation for fraud and attempt to flee to London via Dubai. Goyal and his wife, and co-founder, Anita were stopped at the Mumbai airport.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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