Absconding diamantaire and Gitanjali Gems promoter Mehul Choksi on Tuesday made startling revelations on the Rs 13,600 crore PNB fraud case. Talking to a news channel, he claimed that the charges of money laundering and corruption against him are a "big political conspiracy" and that there is "extraordinary pressure" on the ruling dispensation to bring back at least one bank defaulter as this has the potential for changing the results of forthcoming elections.
Terming himself as a 'soft target', Choksi said that he has been made a sacrificial lamb for the "fault" of the state-owned PNB bank.
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"This is a big political conspiracy and it (the case) has now become political. I am a soft target. There is a lot of pressure on the government to bring back the bank defaulters and if even one person is not brought back then the results of elections can change.
"I have been made a scapegoat and if you see my companies were associated with the banks since 1995 and there has never been a problem," Choksi said.
He said Punjab National Bank (PNB) was at "full fault" in this case, but considering it was a national entity, he was sacrificed.
"So, whatever complacency was there, was in the reporting system of the bank to RBI. I have been attacked on the basis of this mismatch," he said, adding the government wants to save the banks "at any cost".
Choksi, the maternal uncle of designer diamond jeweller and co-accused in the case Nirav Modi, said as criminal action was launched by the government against Nirav Modi's companies, and his firms too were included.
The businessman, against whom an Interpol notice sought by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is pending, added he had no business relations with Nirav Modi now.
"I was with Nirav Modi's company between 1998-2000 and since then I have no business relations with him. My company is 50 years old and it has been given 150 government awards for social concerns over the years and there has been no government inquiry against them.
But suddenly all agencies have come in the picture," he said.
Over 6,000 people are employed in my companies, directly or indirectly, he said, and it has never happened in India that a firm has been shut down in a day without any investigation being conducted.
"This happened because of extraordinary pressure on the government," he said, adding his companies were also counted amongst the world's best luxury companies.
Without taking any name, Choksi said that as one political party said that banks are being cheated and fraudsters are running away, his name was dragged in.
The businessman, who has been charged with "diverting" and money laundering over Rs 3,250 crore of funds, said he was "shocked" when he heard a criminal case was slapped against him in January.
"I was under medical treatment in the US at that time. I was in hospital for a month," he said.
Choksi, who has taken citizenship of the caribbean nation of Antigua, said his family is in "trauma" since these cases came up. Even none of his business and personal friends talk to him now.
"My family is concerned as to what will happen to me if I go to India now? I shudder making any phone call to India and even no one is talking to me since February 15.
"No one in the business community, no employee, no family member, no friends as they are very afraid that if they keep relations with me, they will be raided," he said.
Asked what was he doing in Antigua, Choksi said he was undergoing "medical treatment" there. "I am also spending some time with my lawyers. It is a lovely country and I want to lead a life like a free bird," he said.
The owner of Gitanjali Group of Companies said he had "full faith in democracy and I am sure that I will get justice".
Asked if there had been any criminal cases against him in the past, Choksi said as his gems and jewellery went to 4,000 shops so "there could be some cases here and there and that is an occupational hazard".
"I have never gone to a police station in my life and neither to courts with regard to a criminal case," he said.
Assembly elections in some states, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, will be held later this year, and the parliamentary election is scheduled for early next year.