The passport office at Mumbai had issued a passport valid for 10 years to fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi in 2015 without a police verification report, Mumbai police said on Saturday without elaborating why he was exempted.
But the police did carry out the verification exercise two years later, in February-March 2017. This one, the statement said, was at the request of the businessman. He was to apply for citizenship to the east Caribbean twin-island nation Antigua and Barbuda a few months later, in May 2017. A police clearance was a mandatory document.
The police ran Mehul Choksi’s details through the city police’s database, Criminal Antecedents and Information System. There were no red flags and the police cleared him on 14 March 2017, according to a statement issued by Mumbai Police, the third agency to come out with a clarification on the diamond trader this week.
The flurry of explanations come after Antigua government underscored that it accepted Mehul Choksi’s citizenship request only after Indian agencies gave a clean chit to the businessman, now wanted for a massive bank loan scam.
The statement exposed the ruling BJP-led national coalition to barbs flung by the opposition, which is projecting the clean chit as proof that the government had not just allowed celebrity designer Nirav Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi to flee the country but also facilitated them.
The securities market regulator and the foreign ministry have already come up with their versions of the clarifications.
The Mumbai police underlined that the businessman had fled the country long before the central probe agency CBI registered its first case against Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi for pulling off the scam. They got credit from banks overseas without furnishing proper guarantees.
But the Mumbai police have also promised to take a hard look at its own systems of giving clearances.
Under the existing system, the criminal antecedent s and information system will only red flag an applicant’s name if he, or she, has been arrested in any offence.
This means that people who are under investigation or wanted in crimes would still get a clean chit.
The police brass has ordered an inquiry into the entire episode.
“The Mumbai Police is also examining its internal processes involved in the criminal antecedent’s verification process to improve the existing system,” the statement said.