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Govt to seek cancellation of fugitive Jatin Mehta's St Kitts passport

Govt to seek cancellation of fugitive Jatin Mehtas St Kitts passport

New Delhi: Tightening the noose over Jatin Mehta of Winsome Group, absconding since 2013, the Indian Government is set to approach the government of St. Kitts and Nevis for cancellation of the fugitive's passport.

Jatin Mehta alongwith his wife Sonia Mehta are understood to have taken citizenship of St. Kitts under an investment program way back in 2014, months after the Mehta promoted Winsome Group was declared a defaulter by PSU banks led by a PNB consortium and Stanchart. Jatin Mehta's name comes on top of the willful bank defaulters list, after he claimed a $ 1 billion receivables default from sale of jewellery by his gulf-based buyers, for which Winsome group had taken Stand By Letter of Credit (SBLC's) to the tune of over Rs. 6100 crore.

Jatin Mehta alongwith his wife Sonia Mehta have been chargesheeted by India's federal police CBI in mid-2018, after filing of multiple FIR's in Year 2017, almost 4 years after the $ 1 billion default. Alongwith the husband and wife duo, Mehta's son Suraj also stands accused in the chargesheet filed by CBI in a Mumbai court.

According to the chargesheet, a large part of the $ 1 billion heist has been found to have been diverted through a maze of offshore companies to some accounts linked with Mehta family. Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also chargesheeted Jatin Mehta under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). In a separate case, India's Income Tax Department is closely following the trail of various funds and investments made by the Mehta family, some of which have been made before the $ 1 billion default surfaced in year 2013.

According to sources in the know, there are precedents where the Government of Saint Kitts has cancelled passports and citizenship of foreign nationals of dubious background who had bought the citizenship of the Caribbean island. In 2016, the government of St. Kitts had cancelled citizenships of 2 persons of Iranian origin. The government of the Caribbean nation has been under tremendous pressure in the recent years for liberally granting citizenships under their investment programs. Canada and United States of America (USA) had expressed their concerns on certain individuals acquiring citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis to escape the law. If the agencies are successful in persuading St. Kitts government to cancel passports of Mehta, he would be left without a citizenship as he and wife have already given up their Indian passports.

The Indian government is likely to move their request for cancellation of St. Kitts passports held by Jatin and Sonia Mehta through the New Delhi-based Honorary Consulate of the Carribean nation. Till now, India doesn't have an extradition treaty with St. Kitts which has made the extradition procedure cumbersome. However, it is understood that the Mehta's are not in the Carribean Islands currently. The Government of St. Kitts has an Honorary Consulate in New Delhi with Industrialist Ravi Jaipuria holding the title of the Honorary Consulate General. Jaipuria runs a host of food and beverage companies under his flagship RJ Corp which hold Indian franchisees of global giants like Pepsi, KFC, Pizza Hut, Costa Coffee etc.

A Mumbai court has already issued non-bailable warrants against Jatin, Sonia and Suraj Mehta. While the Interpol is yet to issue Red Corner Notices (RCN) in names of the trio, the Indian agencies are hopeful of the RCN being issued soon, similar to the one issued against Mehul Choksi recently. With the extradition process being extremely cumbersome as seen in case of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, the government is contemplating various ways to get Jatin Mehta back to India to face trials, in what is said to be the single largest corporate default of India. The government is taking steps for moving an application against the Mehta's under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018 shortly. A slew of chargesheets against Jatin Mehta are expected to be filed by the CBI in the coming weeks, resulting in more Non-Bailable warrants unless the Mehta's comeback to India for facing the trials.

Most Indian properties of the Mehta's already stand attached. Their known overseas assets including business operations in Singapore and US are also under the lens of the Indian agencies for attachment. The agencies are likely to move an application under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act soon, for getting Mehta, his wife and son declared as fugitives paving way for attachment of their identified assets in Europe, US, Middle East and Far East.

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