Pray for 'our Mehulbhai'
New Delhi: Mehul Choksi, who could gain access to the Prime Minister's residence and get addressed as "our Mehulbhai" by Narendra Modi before the diamantaire was linked to the banking scam, likes to build up the suspense.
Choksi has told the CBI in a letter attributed to him that "it is impossible for me to travel back to India" from his current undisclosed location as his passport had been suspended and subsequently revoked. Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi have been accused of cheating Punjab National Bank of nearly Rs 13,000 crore.
Foreign ministry sources had said earlier that Indian missions abroad are empowered to issue a one-time travel document. Neither Choksi nor his illustrious predecessor Vijay Mallya has so far opted to exercise that option.
For those wondering what Choksi has been doing all these weeks, a little detail has been tucked away in the penultimate 22nd paragraph of his seven-page letter to CBI inspector Damodaran in Mumbai.
"I am also not in a position to travel due to my persisting health problem. I had a cardiac procedure which was conducted in the first week of February 2018 and there is still pending work to be done on the same. The entire procedure could not be completed on all veins due to danger to kidney and therefore I am not allowed to travel for at least a period of four to six months," Choksi said in the letter dated March 7.
"February 2018" was not an agreeable month for Prime Minister Modi either. PNB, which apparently detected the scam on January 16, filed a formal complaint on January 29, six days after Nirav got his picture clicked with the Prime Minister and others in Davos.
In the first week of February, the scandal broke and a video clip surfaced, showing the Prime Minister telling an audience on November 5, 2015, how " hamare Mehulbhai" will bear him out on his insights into the jewellery buying habits of Indians. The Davos photograph and the "Mehulbhai" video had dramatically changed the complexion of the scandal.
It is not clear why Choksi's letter has chosen to mention the medical condition almost as an afterthought and nearly at the very end of the letter.
A Delhi-based physician and cardiologist said the statement issued by Choksi was not complete enough to speculate about the type of the purported cardiac procedure. "The statement appears to be confusing veins with arteries, but it does not contain sufficient information to say what procedure," said Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, former national president of the Indian Medical Association.
Choksi has made it clear he does not intend to stay voluntarily in a government hospital. "In case I am arrested, then I would not be able to get proper health care and would be provided treatment only in a government hospital. I would be further denied treatment in a private hospital," an earlier paragraph of the letter said.
The letter mentioned the email address of Choksi and the phone number of his lawyer, Sanjay Abbot. Asked about his client's health, Abbot chuckled and said: "The letter is meant for the CBI. I am not aware of his medical condition."
On Choksi's current location, the lawyer said: "I have never asked him about his whereabouts."
But Abbot said he was in constant touch with Choksi. Presumably, the medical advice that is keeping Choksi away from aircraft did not caution against long-distance chatting.