After Mallya, Choksi & Modi, Jatin Mehta in extradition line
NEW DELHI: Buoyed by the recent judgement of a British Court on Vijay Mallya and Interpol's red corner notice on Mehul Choksi, fugitive diamantaire and $1-billion defaulter Jatin Mehta's name is on the top of the next extradition target list of the Government. Along with Jatin Mehta, his wife Sonia and son Suraj — both of whom stand co-accused in a CBI chargesheet — are also on the most sought-after extradition targets. According to sources, a slew of proceedings against the Meht's has started heating the once tepid pace of investigations on the self claimed $1 billon default on a clutch of PSU banks and Stanchart.
Since 2013, Jatin Mehta became the most infamous name in the country's diamond trade before the uncle-nephew duo of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi made headlines in 2018. The fugitive diamond merchant, who has since then been absconding and was declared a willful defaulter in 2016, has had a free run till the filing of a chargesheet by the CBI, which booked him along with his wife and son.
According to sources, despite the publicly known links of the fugitive, investigators have chalked out a plan to bring back the absconder to face the law in India. The plan may well be to focus on pressing for extradition of Suraj who stands as a co-accused in the billion dollar fraud on Indian banks. Sources informed that since the chargesheet was filed by the CBI, Jatin Mehta has been making all possible attempts to shield Suraj by getting him discharged from the case. Suraj who is reported to be based in the USA and is believed to have relinquished his shareholding in various business entities, including a Singapore-based firm managed by Jatin Mehta's elder son Vishal.
Sources further revealed that in the same year before declaring a billion dollar loss by the Winsome Group, Jatin Mehta's younger son Suraj Mehta wedding was arranged into one of the largest business families of India, headquartered out of Ahmedabad, and was tipped to the most expensive and high-profile wedding of that year. According to a source, if Jatin Mehta was, indeed, planning a billion dollar run on Indian banks, getting his son married into the tremendously influential business family of India may have been a ploy to acquire a shield before the default went public.
Extraditing Suraj from US territory may be comparatively easier for the Indian agencies compared to laying their hands on Jatin Mehta and his wife Sonia, who acquired citizenship of Caribbean tax haven St Kitts & Nevis in 2013. The Indian Investigators recently received the full cooperation of the US authorities for attachment of properties owned by entities controlled by fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi. Banking on the earlier olive branch extended by the US, Indian investigators may press for the arrest and extradition of Suraj as soon as Interpol issues a red corner notice against the Mehta trio.
"There is clinching evidence against each of the accused named in the chargesheet. The issuance of red corner notice should happen in due course enabling the agencies to extradite the accused from foreign shores", a highly placed source said.
Both sons of Jatin Mehta — Vishal and Suraj — are reported to be into the lab-grown diamond business. While Vishal is said to be operating from Singapore, the younger son has his business in the USA. lab grown diamonds have similar properties of natural diamonds but undergo artificial heat treatment to acquire the properties unlike the natural diamonds which take hundreds of years as a natural phenomenon. A red corner notice in name of Suraj Mehta may also act as a deterrent for the US jewellery trade to transact with entities owned by him. Likewise, the earlier shareholding of Sonia Mehta and Suraj Mehta in the companies managed by Vishal Mehta, prior to their naming as accused in the chargesheet, are likely to come under the scanner. Further, investigators have information of cross-border transactions of lab grown diamonds between entities managed by Vishal and Suraj Mehta.
The investigators are weaving a web that would cut through the veil of transactions to identify which of the assets are indeed linked to the proceeds of the crime to ensure that the absconders' free run ends soon. Prior to filing of the chargesheet, Jatin, Sonia and Suraj Mehta were understood to be travelling frequently across the world. Since the chargesheet, their free movements have gone down drastically. The red corner notice will further squeeze their free access significantly, forcing them to hole themselves to evade arrest and extradition to India.