Indian officials return from Dominica as Choksi's deportation case adjourned
The high-profile team of Indian officials, that had flown down to Dominica to bring back fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, is now headed home sans him. The investigators decided to take off from the Caribbean island nation after a top court there adjourned his habeas corpus petition reportedly until July. Choksi is behind the PNB scam - considered one of India's most notorious bank frauds.
The eight-member team includes officials of the Enforcement Directorate and the chief of Bank Securities and Frauds (Mumbai) Division at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - Sharada Raut. They took off from Dominica on Thursday night and will reach the Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi at 11 pm. Both the aforementioned Indian agencies are probing the money laundering and fraud allegations against Choksi.
On Thursday, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court adjourned the hearing into Choksi's deportation case, asking the two parties involved to resolve administrative issues, The Indian Express reported. Vijay Aggarwal, the fugitive's lawyer in India, told the newspaper the next hearing was expected on July 1. "Till then, as per the existing Dominican court order, Mehul Choksi shall remain in Dominica," Aggarwal said.
Meanwhile, in a separate proceeding, a Magistrate Court in Dominica has refused bail to Choksi after he was accused of illegally entering the country. Choksi's lawyers had argued in the court that he should be granted bail on health grounds, offering to pay a bail sum of $10,000. The Dominican government, on the other hand, said he could flee the nation if bailed out.
Choksi was reported missing in Antigua on May 23 and caught two days later in Dominica. The local media had said that he was looking to sneak a romantic trip with his rumored girlfriend. Some reports claimed he was trying to flee to Cuba. His lawyers, however, have maintained Choksi was honey-trapped, abducted, thrashed, and then forcibly brought to Dominica.
Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Gaston Browne has maintained Choksi should not return there and should instead be sent back to India. The government of Dominica has also supported that stance. His lawyers, however, claim Choksi is no longer a citizen of India as per the Indian law and hence he can only be deported to Antigua, where he had been residing since 2018.
"India remains steadfast in its efforts that fugitives are brought back to India. Mehul Choksi is currently in the custody of Dominica with some legal proceedings underway. We will continue to ensure he is brought back," a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Choksi and his nephew, Nirav Modi, are accused of siphoning off more than Rs. 13,000 crore in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, that had shocked the nation when it emerged in early 2018. Choksi is facing two cases in Antigua as well - revocation of his citizenship and extradition to India. Modi is currently jailed in London and contesting his extradition to India.