Mumbai :Fugitive diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi, allegedly involved in an over $2 billion scam in Punjab National Bank, claims he had taken Antigua citizenship last year to expand his business as the passport of the Caribbean nation allowed visa-free travel to 132 countries, local media in Antigua has reported.
In a statement issued by his attorney, David Dorsett, on the diamantaire’s behalf, Choksi said there was no truth in the allegations levelled by the Indian government, the Daily Observer, a newspaper in Antigua, reported.
Choksi, who was allegedly the partner-in-crime of his nephew Nirav Modi in the banking fraud, refused to say anything further on the issue, on the advice of his lawyers.
“I can however state that I lawfully applied to be registered as a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment Program. During the course of my application I did all that was lawfully required of me to do. My application for citizenship was in due course approved,” the statement published in the newspaper said.
Choksi had taken the citizenship of Antigua in November 2017, and the oath of allegiance on January 15 this year, according to a local newspaper Antigua Observer.
“My application was 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 statement said, adding that he was in the United States in January 2018 for medical treatment.
“Having received treatment I am still in a state convalescence. That being the case I have decided to reside in Antigua and Barbuda,” it read.
The development came after media reports that Choksi had recently left the Caribbean country. “We are trying to ascertain where he is. But we are certain he is not in Antigua anymore,” an Indian Express report quoted an Antigua official as saying.
After it emerged that Choksi had moved to the Caribbean country in July and also taken a local passport, the CBI wrote to Antiguan authorities, seeking the whereabouts of the fugitive diamantaire.
The CBI, in its communication sent to Antiguan authority, cited diffusion notice issued by the Interpol against the fugitive businessman and sought details of his movement and his present location.
The Antigua Government indicated that it may consider “a legitimate request” from India to send back Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Nirav Modi and Choksi are being investigated by the ED and the CBI after it was detected that they allegedly cheated the Punjab National Bank with the purported help of a few of the lender’s employees.
Indian billionaires’ wealth rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018: report
New Delhi: Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country’s richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said .Globally, billionaires’ fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world’s population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in this Swiss ski resort town.
Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.
Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual gathering of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines.
“If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” she added.
Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.
The world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.
“India’s top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth. The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population,” Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.
Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.
“It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added.
“The size of one’s bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live — yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care,” Byanyima said.
Fugitive Choksi surrenders Indian passport in Antigua to ‘avoid extradition’
Chandigarh:Fugitive tycoon Mehul Choksi has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua, as per media reports.
This move by Choksi’s is being seen as an attempt to avoid his extradition to India. Antigua and India do not have an extradition treaty.
India had earlier handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of Mehul Choksi who is charged in connection with India’s biggest banking fraud, and now living in the Caribbean nation after taking its citizenship.
Official sources said a team comprising officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other agencies was sent to Antigua a couple of days ago to request the Antiguan authorities to extradite Choksi, wanted in India in the US$ 2 billion Punjab National bank scam.
As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared Choksi’s citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application for it.
Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. His citizenship was cleared in November 2017.
Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).
FPI outflow crosses Rs 4,000 crore in Jan so far
New Delhi: Foreign investors have pulled out more than Rs 4,000 crore from the Indian capital markets so far in January, highlighting their cautious stance towards the country.
This comes following a collective net inflow of over Rs 17,000 crore in the capital markets both equity and debt by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) during November and December.
Prior to that, they had pulled out a massive Rs 38,905 crore in October.
According to data available with the depositories, FPIs withdrew a net amount of Rs 3,987 crore from equities and a net sum of Rs 53 crore from the debt market, taking the total outflow to Rs 4,040 crore during January 1-18.
Market experts believe that FPIs are continuing with their ‘wait and watch’ approach towards India.
Going ahead, the focus would be on the budget, progress on the economic growth front and general elections, they added.
Other factors such as movement in crude prices and currency as well as US-China trade relations will also play a role in FPI flows, they added.
Harsh Jain, COO at Groww, an online MF investment platform, said 2019 is likely to see a lot of volatility because of the rate hikes and dollar instability, but the Indian markets may be able to weather the storm.
“India offers better investment opportunities due to consistent growth, supportive global factors and attract valuations. We should expect positive inflow in coming months,” he added.