Dominica withdraws illegal entry case against fugitive Mehul Choksi
In a relief to fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, Dominican authorities withdrew the proceedings over his "illegal entry" into the island nation, officials said on Saturday. Choksi, wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, had mysteriously surfaced in Dominica after going missing from Antigua on May 23 last year.
- Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted by the Indian authorities in the Punjab National Bank scam, where it is alleged that the duo defrauded the bank of more than Rs. 13,500 crore.
- While Choksi had taken the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in 2017 before fleeing India in the first week of January 2018, Modi is lodged in a prison in London.
A team of Indian investigators flew to Dominica on May 28, 2021, hoping to secure Choksi's deportation, but the latter filed a habeas corpus petition in Dominica High Court alleging abduction and torture. The prosecutors appearing for India filed an official request in Dominica in the first week of June 2021 seeking to declare him an Indian citizen and deport him to India.
Choksi's capture, however, snowballed into a political storm in the Caribbean with opposition parties accusing Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda governments of colluding with India to allegedly abduct him. On the basis of Choksi's lawyers' complaint, the Antigua police launched an abduction probe. Recently, a 19-page investigation report was recently filed in the Dominica court prompting Dominican prosecutors to withdraw the 'illegal entry' case.
Choksi had contested the "illegal entry" claim, alleging that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by "policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat." After the Dominica High Court granted Choksi bail on medical grounds, he flew back to Antigua in July last year. To recall, he has been staying in Antigua since 2018 as a citizen.
The CBI recently registered a fresh case against Choksi and his company Gitanjali Gems for allegedly defrauding the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) of Rs. 22 crore. Choksi had allegedly inflated the value of diamonds and jewelry and pledged these to get a Rs. 25 crore loan. The fresh valuations showed that gems were low-quality lab-prepared diamonds and not real gemstones.