UPDATED: May 28, 2021 11:03 IST
The arrests of Mehul Choksi, a diamond businessman and a declared fugitive in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, in the Caribbean island nation Dominica has brought the focus back on pending extradition processes against many of his ilks.
Going by India’s experience, extradition is hardly a successful government endeavour. According to the government’s reply to the Rajya Sabha in February 2020, efforts were on to extradite 72 fugitives to India from different countries. An RTI response of 2019 said only two of the fugitives could be brought back to India since 2015.
So, let’s have a look at the top fugitives and their last known status.
Lalit Modi, credited for launching the Indian Premier League (IPL), is wanted for allegedly defrauding the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of Rs 753 crore.
Lalit Modi fled India in May 2010 — shortly before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was to file a case against him — citing a threat to his life. The Mumbai-headquartered BCCI filed a police case against Lalit Modi in Chennai in October 2010.
For seven years, the police probe did not progress, building the ground for Interpol to reject the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) request to issue a Red Corner Notice (RCN).
India filed an extradition request more than a decade after he fled. Lalit Modi was last reported to be living in London.
Nirav Modi is on the verge of becoming a success story of extradition for Indian agencies. He fled India in 2017 after the PNB scam was unearthed. India approached the UK for his extradition in 2018.
In April this year, the legal hurdles for his extradition were cleared after Nirav Modi lost a case in the UK court. The UK government agreed to extradite Nirav Modi. But Nirav Modi has filed fresh appeals in the court against his extradition to India.
Nirav Modi’s uncle and co-accused in the PNB scam case, Mehul Choksi has been successful until now in evading Indian agencies. But his arrest in Dominica could mean Mehul Choksi has run out of his luck. Dominica has hinted that it is ready to extradite Mehul Choksi either directly to India or through Antigua — he is an Antiguan citizen.
Businessman Vijay Mallya is wanted for alleged banking fraud in India. Vijay Mallya fled India in March 2016, while he was still a Rajya Sabha MP. He has been living in the UK, where India has won all the court cases for the extradition of Vijay Mallya. But a formal approval from the UK government is still awaited.
Businessman Nitin Sandesara, his wife Dipti Sandesara and brother-in-law Hitesh Patel are wanted in India in connection with a banking fraud to the tune of Rs 15,600 crore. The scam involves Sterling Biotech Group, a firm promoted by Sandesaras.
They fled India in 2017 to Nigeria. In February this year, they filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming Nigeria and Albania had in 2019 rejected the extradition request made by India. They were declared fugitives in India last year.
Jatin Mehta, a diamond businessman, is wanted in a bank fraud case. The Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery, the firm promoted by Jatin Mehta, is said to be the third biggest defaulter after Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines and Nirav Modi.
Jatin Mehta fled India in 2013 to the Caribbean island St Kitts with his family. He is reported to be shuffling between St Kitts and the UK. However, reports in 2020 claimed that Jatin Mehta might have settled in the Southeast European country, Montenegro where he was understood to have floated new firms.
Sanjay Bhandari is yet another high-profile fugitive wanted in India in a money laundering cases. Sanjay Bhandari is living in the UK and resisting extradition to India in a London court.
The UK government certified his extradition to India in 2020, after which Sanjay Bhandari was arrested. But he moved the court and secured bail as he contested the extradition move.
Sanjay Bhandari, who fled India in 2016, had triggered a political row in India over his alleged links to Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra, who had denied any business connections with the accused.