The Bombay High Court has allowed Maiank Mehta, the brother-in-law of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi who is an accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, to travel to Hong Kong for three months.
The Bombay High Court Tuesday dismissed the CBI’s plea against the order of a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act ( PMLA) court, which permitted Mehta to travel to Hong Kong. However, after the CBI counsel sought from the high court to stay the operation of its order for four weeks to seek further relief, the single-judge bench of Justice Prakash D Naik stayed the same for two weeks. The detailed order will be made available later.
The CBI has said though Mehta has not been named as an accused in its case as yet, his role in the PNB Bank fraud case is to be ascertained and for that, they need his appearance for further interrogation. The agency had also said that Mehta has received large sums of the siphoned amount from PNB Bank fraud, which he transferred to his wife’s account and the same needs to be probed.
A special court had in June this year allowed Mehta to travel abroad. Before that, he was stopped by the Immigration Bureau at the airport and was prevented from travelling despite the court’s nod.
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The Bombay High Court was informed by senior advocate Amit Desai on behalf of Mehta that he had been writing to CBI officers to begin the inquiry but he had not received any positive response. Desai had submitted that Mehta had been in India waiting for CBI to complete the investigation about him and had to miss out on taking care of his aged parents.
Desai opposed the CBI’s request to stay the operation of order and stated that the central agency had called his client for questioning only once in the last month and same showed his presence was not required. Desai added the special court had even orally allowed Mehta to travel to the United Kingdom where his children are residing as well and the same be allowed by HC.
However, the bench said it will refer to a written order of the special court and cannot entertain a request beyond that.
Senior advocate Raja Thakare, representing the CBI, opposed the reliefs sought and argued that once he is allowed to leave the country, it would be difficult to get him back and face an inquiry. Thakare said that though there is extradition, the agency has been unable to get Nirav Modi back and Mehta’s wife Purvi, a Belgian national who has turned approver in the ED case, is also yet to come to India. Mehta has also turned approver in the ED case.
Thakare added Mehta has a British passport and it is possible that once he is out of the country, he would seek the probe through virtual mode and hence he should not be allowed to leave.
Mehta has also filed a plea in the HC seeking directions to CBI to commence its inquiry and grant a pardon similar to one granted to him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as he and his wife had turned approvers. Mehta had also sought protection from coercive action till the inquiry was completed as he wanted to go back to his family.
A division bench of the Bombay High Court led by Justice Revati Mohite-Dere on July 25 had granted Mehta interim protection from coercive steps and it was later continued till September 28, when it will hear the plea next. It has also asked the CBI to file an affidavit in reply to the plea by September 23.