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Friday, June 18, 2021

Jet in Dominica with Choksi case papers from India, says Antigua PM

Choksi, who was reported missing after he left his home in Antigua and Barbuda on May 23, was arrested in Dominica on May 25 evening local time, for allegedly entering that country illegally.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: May 31, 2021 10:44:00 am
Fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi. (File)

India has sent documents pertaining to the case of Mehul Choksi to Dominica for the consideration of a local court that is hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of the fugitive diamond trader, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda said on Sunday.

The plea on behalf of Choksi, 62, who is accused in the Rs 13,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, is scheduled to be heard in open court on June 2.

Choksi, who was reported missing after he left his home in Antigua and Barbuda on May 23, was arrested in Dominica on May 25 evening local time, for allegedly entering that country illegally.

Dominica is an island nation to the south of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said that an aircraft has arrived in Dominica, carrying necessary documentation in support of the case for Choksi’s deportation to India.

Asked during a media interview about a “particular private jet that has arrived in Dominica from Qatar”, Prime Minister Browne said: “Yes, I can confirm that there is a jet there. My understanding is that the Indian government has sent certain documentation from the courts in India to confirm that Mr Choksi is indeed a fugitive, and my understanding is the documentation will be utilised in the court’s case that’ll be heard… the court hearing next Wednesday.

“As you know, the judge in Dominica has actually put a stay on his deportation until the hearing next Wednesday. So the Indian government seems to be going all out to ensure that he is repatriated to India so that he can stand trial there.”


What next?

Antigua has urged Dominica to hand Choksi over to India, but Dominica said he may be repatriated to Antigua once his Antigua citizenship is established. June 2 court hearing could offer some clarity.

The Indian government has issued no official statement ever since the matter of Choksi’s disappearance in Antigua and Barbuda came to light.

Prime Minister Browne has, however, been speaking: on Friday, he told news agency ANI that his government has “specifically requested” Dominica “to have Indian law enforcement agencies make necessary arrangements to have him (Choksi) returned directly to India”.

Choksi has been a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda since January 15, 2018. In his interview to ANI, Browne said that Dominican law enforcement had been asked not to return him to Antigua, “where he has legal and constitutional rights as a citizen”.

Dominica’s Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs has, however, issued a statement saying they are in touch with authorities in Antigua and Barbuda to ascertain Choksi’s citizenship status — and “Once the information is provided by Antigua authorities, possible arrangements will be made for…(him) to be repatriated to Antigua”.

The petition filed by Choksi’s lawyers in Dominica has cited “deprivation of access” and “legal assistance” to him. On May 28, the court ordered a stay on removing Choksi from Dominica until further orders.

The Antigua News Room media outlet on Saturday published a photo of Choksi in custody in Dominica. Choksi is seen in the photo with bruises on his wrist and a swollen, red eye.

Antigua News Room also published a photo of the aircraft that it said was “a private jet currently at the Douglas-Charles Airport in Dominica”.

Choksi has claimed that he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda and was forcibly sent to Dominica in a yacht. His lawyer in India, Vijay Aggarwal, has said that his client is no longer an Indian citizen and that Choksi cannot, under existing laws, be repatriated to India.

Choksi left India on January 7, 2018, days before the PNB scam came to light. His nephew and co-accused in the case, Nirav Modi, too left the country around the same time. Nirav Modi is now in prison in London, fighting a legal battle to stave off extradition to India.

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