By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, ROSEAU, Dominica, Friday, June 4, 2021: A magistrate in the Caribbean island of Dominica on Thursday ordered Indian fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi to return to court on June 14th.
The Dominica High Court, which was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Choksi, had ordered him to be presented before the magistrate to face charges of illegal entry. A habeas corpus petition is filed for producing before a court a person who is under arrest or in unlawful detention.
Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal argued that his client is in “illegal detention” because he was required to be produced within 72 hours before Magistrate Candia Carrette-George.
The Dominica prosecution cited the ongoing extradition proceedings in the courts of Antigua and Barbuda, where he is staying since 2018 after leaving India, as one of the main arguments to keep Choksi under detention. Prosecutor Sherma Dalrymple told the court that Choksi is a “flight risk” and does not have any ties in Dominica that prevent him from fleeing the country if bail is granted.
But defence counsel Wayne Norde said Choksi was not a flight risk considering his health and the pending extradition proceedings in Antigua
Choksi was arrested on May 23 for alleged illegal entry to the Caribbean island country. Choksi is a patient at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital where he is being treated for an underlying condition and came to court in a wheelchair.
Agarwal, the lawyer for Choksi, has insisted his client can only be legally deported to Antigua and Barbuda from Dominica.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he has asked Dominica not to return him to Antigua. Reports in the international media have also indicated that India will use diplomatic channels to get Choksi back in his homeland to face the courts.
The news comes as Dominica News online quoted sources as saying that Choksi was indeed with a woman when he landed in Dominica, but she was not his girlfriend.
The paper says the sources claim that she was a part of a team involved in his abduction, torture and arrest after meeting him during morning and evening walks in Antigua and befriending him.
The paper said the woman called him to an apartment to meet her on May 23rd, 2021 where a group of people abducted him and took him to Dominica where he was arrested.
He alleged through his lawyers that people with links to India were the ones who abducted him in collaboration with Antiguan officials.
According to Choksi’s lawyers, the Indian businessmen was then beaten up, tortured and taken to Dominica in a vessel where he was arrested.
Prime Minister Browne has accused the Opposition in Antigua of supporting Choksi to secure campaign finances, a claim the UPP has denied.
All this comes as the United Workers Party Leader in Dominica, Lennox Linton, said the removal of Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda, to Dominica, was intended to facilitate his transfer to India without having to wait on the outcome of the on-going extradition.
Linton said in a statement Monday that Dominica has been conscripted to unlawfully violate the constitutional rights of an Antiguan citizen for crass political purposes.
Choksi is wanted by the Indian judicial authorities for criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty including delivery of property, corruption, and money laundering in a ₹13,500 crore loan fraud in Punjab National Bank. He moved to Antigua and Barbuda where he has been staying since January 2018 after receiving citizenship under the Citizenship for Investment program there.
Choksi also has two cases against him in courts of Antigua and Barbuda – extradition and revocation of the citizenship he purchased.