By K Raveendran
Post-1947, life in jail during independence struggle was considered a decoration for any politician or even common citizen. After Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, it was a jail term during the dark days that recognized one’s political mettle. During Modi’s era, the attribute of a good opposition politician is a raid by Enforcement Directorate or the CBI. While these agencies make a daily celebration of their latest victim, the likes of Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar, and now Tejashwi Yadav, a prized catch who looted the country left, right and centre has slipped away. Diamantaire Mehul ChoksI has got himself struck off the Red List of Interpol and hopes to be a free bird again, except probably in the Indian skies, thanks to the ineptitude of CBI. Probably because there is no guarantee that the so-called premier investigative agency would not mess up things further.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has used the development to snub BJP and its attack against Rahul Gandhi for allegedly endangering democracy, saying ‘those giving protection to such people talk about patriotism, it is a joke’. Kharge had earlier tweeted:“ED-CBI for opposition leaders but release from Interpol for ‘our Mehul bhai’ of Modi ji. When Parliament can be stalled for ‘best friend’, then how can help for the ‘old friend ‘ be denied who absconded five years ago”.
Kharge’s criticism is rather subdued, considering the seriousness of the CBI failure to defend its case before a specialist panel of Interpol. Choksi has, in fact, challenged the might of a nation of 1.4 billion people to have his way with the global police body. It is the biggest affront to India’s prestige in the year of India’s presidency of G-20, which the Modi government has been tom-tomming as the world’s recognition of India’s greatness.
The Red Notice is highest form of alert issued by the 195-member country-strong Interpol to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. Choksi has successfully challenged the CBI application seeking issuance of Red Notice against him, calling the case a result of political conspiracy, sources said. He also raised questions on issues such as jail conditions in India, his personal safety and health.
As a democratic organisation, Interpol is subject to strict rules within its own Interpol constitution and Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data concerning the issuing of Interpol Red Notices. As per these documents, there needs to be clarity in the allegations of criminal activity, and contradictions within such allegations must be challenged. The accusers must establish that the alleged offence in question is suitable for a Red Notice. It is obvious that the CBI has screwed up its case before the panel.
As the first reports of Choksi’s name being struck off the Red List came, the CBI kept a studied silence. On second thoughts, it has come up with a strange response, putting the blame on the alleged fraudster for making baseless claims before the Interpol panel. According to the agency, Choksi managed to mislead Interpol by claiming that the Indian government is trying to kidnap him from Antigua, where he is a citizen, and that such action is a gross violation of international rules and norms. Apparently, he also managed to convince the world police entity that the charges against him were politically motivated.
After the decision has already been taken, the CBI has apparently come to life, and claims that it is taking up with Interpol the serious shortcomings, procedural violations, over reach of mandate and mistakes committed by the panel in reaching ‘this unfounded and perfunctory decision’. Asserting that the Red Notice was neither a pre-requisite nor a requirement for extradition proceedings, CBI said that it continues to exercise available remedial and appellate options within Interpol for rectification of this faulty decision. CBI has also challenged the acquisition of Antiguan passport by the diamond merchant on the basis of fabrications, but was not successful.
The irrefutable fact is that there are highly professional agencies armed with profound knowledge in international legal help as well as deep understanding of the functioning of Interpol, working overtime to counter the positions taken by law enforcement agencies and obtain cancellation of extradition requests. It is obvious that CBI has been thoroughly outwitted by these agencies.
According to the Indian government, the fugitive diamantaire was one of the biggest defaulters owing money to the banks, with his firm Gitanjali Gems defaulting on loans worth Rs 7,848 crore. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had barred him from the securities markets for 10 years and imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore for indulging in fraudulent trading in the shares of his company. (IPA Service)