Interpol recently removed fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi from the Red Notice list and it is being called a setback for Indian authorities. India has been trying to extradite Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda, a country in the Caribbean, for years in the Rs 13,578 crore Punjab National Bank scam.
Why did Interpol remove Choksi from the Red Notice list?
Interpol reportedly decided to remove the Red Notice against Choksi as they found "credible possibility" in the argument presented by his lawyers.
Choksi claimed that Indian authorities orchestrated his abduction from Antigua and Barbuda and to Dominica (another country in the Caribbean) in 2021 to secretly whisk him back to India.
There is a credible possibility that the applicant's abduction from Antigua to Dominica had the ultimate purpose of deporting the applicant to India and he may face the risk of not receiving a fair trial or treatment if returned to India.
So far, CBI and ED, the Indian agencies investigating Mehul Choksi and related cases, have not officially responded to the development.
Without the Red Notice, Mehul Choksi can leave Antigua and Barbuda for any country without the fear of arrest. There are concerns that he may flee the Caribbean country to avoid the ongoing extradition trial.
What is a Red Notice by Interpol?
Interpol or the International Criminal Police Organization facilitates global police cooperation and crime control. There are 195 member countries including India.
Red Notices are issued against internationally wanted persons and are requested by countries seeking extradition, like India, in the case of Mehul Choksi.
However, a Red Notice, also called Red Corner Notice (RCN) is not an arrest warrant, but only an alert about a wanted person.
It means that if a wanted person steps into one of the 195 member countries, the local authorities are obliged to hand the person over to the country looking for the said person.
But, a Red Notice is only an obligation for a member country. A local government may or may not hand over the wanted person. They also get to decide what legal value can be given to the notice.
Why would a person wanted on criminal charges be dropped from the Red Notice list?
There have been times when the Interpol Red Notice has been misused by some countries to target refugees and others fleeing persecution.
Mehul Choksi and Red Notice:
Interpol issued a Red Notice against Mehul Choksi in 2018, almost 10 months after he fled India for Antigua and Barbuda, where he had gained citizenship in 2017.
The abduction claims by Choksi pertain to an incident in 2021, where the fugitive economic offender claims a Hungarian woman and two men of Indian descent from the UK forcefully took him to Dominica to extradite him to India.
Choksi also claimed to be abused and beaten by the persons. Later, Interpol also issues three Red Notices against those reportedly involved in Choksi's kidnapping.
At the time, India also sent a private Qatar Airways jet to Dominica in hopes that Choksi will be extradited.
In Dominica, Choksi faced charges of illegal entry but was allowed to return to Antigua and Barbuda on bail. Later all charges in Dominica were dropped.
On the other hand, Nirav Modi remains on the Red Notice list. Currently, Modi is languishing in a London jail where he is fighting for asylum in the UK and trying to thwart extradition to India.