Mumbai Police on Saturday said the Regional Passport Office (RPO) in Mumbai had issued a passport to absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, one of the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank fraud, after granting him a no ‘Police Verificiation Required’ (PVR) status.
Accordingly, no PVR was generated for the passport, issued under the ‘Tatkal' category on September 10, 2015, valid for 10 years, said an official statement.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said on Friday that a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) was issued on the basis of a clear PVR available on his (Choksi's) passport.
However, according to the Mumbai Police, it was only after nearly one-and-a-half years—on February 23, 2017—that Choksi had applied for getting a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) to the RPO.
On February 24, 2017, the Malabar Hill Police downloaded the Personal Particular Form for police verification, prior to issuing the PCC. On March 10, 2017, it submitted the PCC report of "no criminal antecedents against Choksi." This was done after duly checking the Criminal Antecedents and Information System of Mumbai Police for checking the criminal records of any passport applicant within its jurisdiction. "The system will reflect only the applicant's name if he has been arrested in any offence," said the statement.
Four days later, on March 14, 2017, the Passport Branch of SBI-II, CID, had forwarded its PCC report to the RPO.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said on Friday that a Police Clearance Certificate was issued on the basis of a clear PVR available on his (Choksi’s) passport. However Mumbai Police on Saturday said the Regional Passport Office had issued a passport to the absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, one of the prime accused in the PNB fraud, after granting him a no ‘Police Verificiation Required’ status
On Friday, August 3, MEA's spokesperson Kumar had said that all passport issuing authorities can issue a PCC if there is a clear PVR in the system, and in case there is no PVR, then a fresh PVR is obtained prior to issuance of a PCC.
"As the PVR of Mehul Choksi was clear in the system at the time of issuance of PCC, the process followed by the Passport Office, Mumbai was as per extant instructions," he stated, adding that the PCC was issued to Choksi in March 2017 for his travel to Antigua and Barbuda.
Choksi flew out of India from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on January 04, 2018. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed an FIR against him January 31, and a fortnight later, in mid-February, the scam erupted after PNB admitted that it had been defrauded.
On February 23, 2018, the RPO Mumbai had revoked Choksi's passport.
In the wake of controversies surrounding Choksi's citizenship of Antigua, the Mumbai Police has now initiated an investigation into the process of issuing PVR, and examining its internal processes involved in the criminal antecedents verification process to improvise the existing systems.
Inputs by NH Web Desk