Extradition of a fugitive | Sunday Observer

Extradition of a fugitive

5 June, 2021
Arjuna Mahendran
Arjuna Mahendran

While Central Bank scam mastermind Arjun Mahendran continues to stay a step ahead of Sri Lankan sleuths and INTERPOL, the luck of Mehul Choksi, fugitive Indian con artiste responsible for the Punjab National Bank fraud is running out rapidly.

Recently, The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar ordered the Central Bank Bond scam case to proceed in the absence of former Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran and Ajhan Gardiye Punchihewa, who are currently hiding abroad.

Arjun Mahendran

Officer representing the Immigration and Emigration Controller testified that the third accused in the case, former Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran, had left Sri Lanka on October 13, 2017.

His daughter Natasha Kanchana Anjali Mahendran claimed her father was currently living in Singapore and she was unable to serve summons. Although Sri Lanka asked for the extradition of Mahendran, there was no favourable response from Singapore.

Indian sleuths seems to have acted more efficiently in their efforts to nab Mehul Choksi, who is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the over IRs 13,000-crore (SL Rs 320 billion) Punjab National Bank fraud case.

Choksi, a diamond trader in India escaped just before the bank scam came to light. He was living in Antigua &Barbuda and suddenly surfaced in the neighbouring Caribbean country Dominica last week under mysterious circumstances.

There were speculations that he was kidnapped and taken to Dominica by an unknown party. His lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said that Choksi’s family was unaware of his whereabouts. “Efforts are being made to speak to him so that one can know the clearer picture of how he was taken to Dominica,” Aggarwal said.


Following his arrest, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he has asked the Dominican government to have Choksi repatriated to India. Choksi, 62, giving the slip to Indian police, fled to Antigua and Barbuda in 2018 and was living in the Caribbean since then. Although Browne has requested Dominica to repatriate Choksi to India directly, Choksi’s lawyer Aggarwal claimed his client was no longer an Indian citizen and, under the existing laws, cannot be repatriated to India. A statement by the Dominican government also indicated that Choksi might be sent back to Antigua.

However, Prime Minister Browne said Choksi would be extradited to India. “The Dominican government is cooperating with the Antiguan and Indian governments. We have requested Dominican law enforcement agencies not to return him to Antigua, where he has legal and constitutional rights as a citizen.

We specifically requested them to have Indian law enforcement agencies to make necessary arrangements to have him returned directly to India.” Dominica’s Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs issued a statement saying Choksi had been detained for “illegal entry”. The Antigua and Barbuda police chief, Atlee Rodney has denied that fugitive Mehul Choksi was “abducted, tortured and forcibly taken to Dominica”, saying the police have no evidence to back the claims.


Rodney said the police have “no information or indication” that Choksi was forcefully taken from Antigua following his alleged abduction. He said only Choksi’s attorney has been claiming that he was abducted and forcibly taken to Dominica.

The Punjab National Bank fraud came to light in February 2018 when the bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it had detected “fraudulent and unauthorised transactions” worth Rs 11,380 crore at a branch in South Mumbai.


A few officials of the public sector bank had allegedly issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking to his nephew Nirav Modi’s companies. The bank later raised its estimate of the value of the fraud to over Rs 13,000 crore.

Both Choksi and Nirav Modi are accused of having bribed a PNB employee named Gokulnath Shetty to forge a letter of undertaking after which they siphoned off Rs 13,500 crore of public money from the PNB in 2017.

Last month, United Kingdom’s Home Minister Priti Patel had approved the extradition of Nirav Modi to India, where he will face trial. He was arrested on March 19, 2019, and lodged in London’s Wandsworth jail.In August 2018, Choksi said he had “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua & Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean. In January 2019, Choksi had surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua & Barbuda.

It is not clear whether secret service agents were responsible for disappearance of Choksi from Antigua & Bermuda and his reappearance in Dominica. Many such incidents happened from the time Nazi since mass-murderer Eichmann was kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents and Sri Lankan and Malaysian agents apprehended LTTE financier Kumaran Pathmanathan in Malaysia and brought him to Colombo.

The case against Arjun Mahendran and others was taken up before the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar Bench comprising High Court Judges Amal Ranaraja, Namal Balalle and Adithya Patabendige.

State Counsel Lakmini Girihagama appearing on behalf of the Attorney General informed Court that Arjun Mahendran, named as the third accused in the case and Ajhan Gardiye Punchihewa, named as the ninth accused, are now evading Court and are abroad.

Accordingly, Counsel sought the Court’s permission to conduct evidence in relation to the request to proceed with the case under Section 458 of the Criminal Procedure Code without the two accused.

The Bench allowed prosecution to proceed in the case without the presence of two of the accused. The indictments were filed against 10 accused in the Colombo High Court by the Attorney General.

They are Perpetual Treasuries Private Ltd, former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke, and former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Arjuna Mahendran, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, PTL Chief Dealer Kasun Palisena, PTL Chairman Jeffrey Joseph Aloysius, Chitta Ranjan Hulugalle, Muthuraja Surendran, Ajahn Gardiye Punchihewa, Badugoda Hewa and Indika Saman Kumara.

The Attorney General said that Perpetual Treasuries Limited used the Central Bank’s important undisclosed information to artificially alter the final outcome of the Treasury Bond auction, as it has had a huge impact on the overall national economy as a result of the subtle and systematic conduct of the offences related to this fraud and has caused injustice to other primary sellers in the Bond market and the PTL had acted cunningly and made a huge profit and conspired to cause a huge loss to the Government.


Mahendran has reportedly changed his name and hiding in Singapore. Sri Lanka is awaiting the final determination from Singapore on the extradition process initiated against the former Central Bank governor.

Minister of Justice Ali Sabry told Parliament that the Singaporean AG has sought clarification from the AG of Sri Lanka as to whether the charges on Mahendran fall within the scope of the extradition treaty between the two countries. The Minister said that the Government would not rest until all parties responsible for this are brought before court. The Attorney General of Singapore has been presented for the third time with facts pertaining to the extradition of former Central Bank Governor, the Attorney General of Sri Lanka informed the Colombo Permanent High Court two months ago.

Sri Lanka can learn from the Indian proceedings to extradite MehulTroski from the Caribbean to further augment the efforts to extradite the fugitive Arjun Mahendran from Singapore so that legal action could be taken to punish the culprit and recover at least a part of the funds of the Sri Lankan people stolen by him.