The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Tuesday that a Red Notice issued by Interpol is neither a pre-requisite nor a requirement for extradition proceedings against fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi.
Recently, Interpol withdrew the Red Corner Notice issued against Choksi that allowed him to travel freely anywhere across the world. The purpose of a Red Notice is to seek the location of a wanted person and to seek their detention, arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender or similar action.
The CBI further said that it continues to closely monitor the movements of wanted criminals such as Mehul Choksi ‘in close direct coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies’ and categorically mentioned that ‘it is not just reliant only on Interpol channels’.
The central probe agency further said that the extradition request made by India is under active consideration before authorities in Antigua and Barbuda and remains fully unimpacted by the Red Notice withdrawn by Interpol.
In a statement issued by the CBI on Tuesday, the probe agency said that the CBI, which is the Interpol’s nodal agency in India, had issued a diffusion to locate Mehul Choksi in February 2018 and he was traced to Antigua and Barbuda. The CBI sent an extradition request to competent authorities of Antigua and Barbuda in August, 2018.
The same year, according to the CBI, Choksi approached the Commission for Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), making a request for non-publication of the Red Notice. The CCF is an independent body within Interpol comprising elected lawyers from different countries that ensures all personal data processed through Interpol’s channels conforms to the rules of the organization.
After consultations with the CBI, the CCF dismissed Choksi’s representation and Interpol published a Red notice against the fugitive businessman in December 2018 on the request of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
The CBI noted that although they had traced Mehul Choksi’s location prior to the publication of the Red Notice and steps had also been initiated for his extradition, the Red Notice was retained as a precautionary measure.
The CBI said as the extradition proceedings against Choksi were proceeding in Antigua and Barbuda, he approached CCF in 2019 seeking removal of Red Notice from Interpol’s website. The CCF again dismissed his plea in 2020.
The central probe agency said that facing possibilities of imminent extradition from Antigua and Barbuda, Choksi made false claims and approached the CCF with ‘concocted dramatic stories’ and ‘imaginary narratives’ in July 2022 to revise its earlier decision of 2020, with an aim to derail the ongoing extradition proceedings.
The CBI’s statement was a response to a recent petition filed by Mehul Choksi before the Antigua High Court alleging that two Indian agents, presumably from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), abducted him from Antigua and forcibly took him to Dominica Republica in June 2021.
The CCF consulted the CBI and the ED on the matter. Both the Indian probe agencies informed the international body of lawyers that Choksi’s narrative was unsubstantiated and without an iota of evidence. They clarified that Choksi was making all possible attempts to derail the ongoing extradition proceedings in Antigua and Barbuda and evade the process of law in India.
However, the CBI said, a five-member CCF chamber took the decision to delete the Red Notice and Mehul Choksi and communicated the same in November 2022.
The CBI said it has taken up with CCF ‘the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, over reach of mandate and mistakes committed by CCF in the manner of reaching this unfounded and perfunctory decision.’
The CBI said it is exercising available remedial and appellate options within Interpol for rectification of this ‘faulty decision’ and for restoration of the Red Notice. It also pointed out that even Antigua authorities consider there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that Mehul Choksi concealed material facts or made false representation when he applied for his Antigua and Barbuda citizenship.
The CCF has subsequently clarified to the CBI that its decision in no manner has any determination on any guilt or innocence of Mehul Choksi for crimes he remains charged in India. Based on the new information, the CBI is taking steps for CCF to revise its decision.