India approaches Dominica HC to be made party to case seeking Mehul Choksi’s return to Antigua and Barbuda

If the Dominica High Court admits the two affidavits filed by the CBI and the MEA, it will pave way for noted lawyer Harish Salve to plead India’s case in the country

CBI, MEA approach Dominica HC to be made party to Mehul Choksi case seeking his return to Antigua and Barbuda

Mehul Choksi | Image from Twitter @ians_india

New Delhi: India has approached the Dominica High Court seeking to be impleaded as a party in the case filed by lawyers of absconding businessman Mehul Choksi whose bail was rejected by the High Court after a five-hour-long hearing, sources said in New Delhi.

The CBI and External Affairs Ministry have sought to implead in the habeas corpus matter, which seeks return of Choksi to Antigua and Barbuda, by filing two affidavits in Dominica High Court, officials said.

The central agency is likely to focus on establishing criminal culpability of Choksi, his fugitive status, pending warrants against him, Red Notice and charge sheets while the External Affairs Ministry will argue that Choksi continues to be an Indian citizen, they said.

The affidavits, if admitted by the Dominica High Court, will pave way for noted lawyer Harish Salve to plead India’s case in Dominica, they said.

On Friday, Dominica High Court, in a separate matter, had denied bail to Choksi calling him a flight risk after a five-hour-long court proceeding through video conferencing.

Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts ruled that “the court cannot impose any condition that will assure Choksi will not abscond”, Dominica News online reported from the island country.

Choksi’s lawyers vehemently sought bail arguing that allegations of “illegal entry” should be discarded because as “a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizen, he is entitled to such benefits since his allege offence is not of a serious nature”, the report said. The team was ready for stringent bail conditions to be imposed by the high court besides offering “any amount” for bail set by the court, it said.

The counsels also cited poor health condition to argue that he was not a flight risk. Dominica government’s legal team led by the acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Sherma Dalrymple cited pending Interpol Red Notice, extradition proceedings in the Antiguan court as reasons which could see Choksi fleeing the island nation.

In her judgement, Justice Adrien-Roberts agreed with the prosecution and denied bail, but allowed Choksi to approach the court for bail at a later stage. Justice Roberts said the accused does not have enough ties in Dominica to not flee, the Dominica News Room reported.

Choksi is admitted to Dominica China Friendship Hospital since 29 May after being held by the authorities of the Caribbean island country for “illegal entry” on 24 May, a charge denied by him. The government has moved a plea before the Magistrate to present Choksi before the court every third day which is under consideration of the Magistrate court.

The Magistrate court is likely to start hearing the case pertaining to the “illegal entry” of Choksi into Dominica from 14 June onwards while his habeas corpus petition in the Dominica High court has been adjourned sine die, the news outlet reported.

Choksi, promoter of Geetanjali Gems and other famous diamond brands in India, had fled the country weeks before Rs 13,500 crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB) allegedly involving him and his nephew Nirav Modi surfaced.

The 62-year old diamantaire had mysteriously gone missing on 23 May from Antigua and Barbuda where was staying since 2018 as a citizen after fleeing from India. He was detained in the neighbouring island country of Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade with his rumoured girlfriend.

Choksi’s lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.

His lawyer in London, Michael Polak, filed a complaint with Scotland Yard seeking a probe into the alleged abduction and torture of his client. Polak said Choksi was removed from Antigua and Barbuda, where as a citizen he enjoys rights to approach the British Privy Council as last resort in cases on his citizenship and extradition, to Dominica where these rights are not available to him.

“The aim was to remove him from Antigua to Dominica was to diminish his protection under the law. Choksi has ongoing proceedings in Antigua in regards to attempts by the prime minister to remove his citizenship, the only citizenship that he possesses, and to extradite him to India,” he had said.

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