Choksi is being taken to the Magistrate Court
Choksi is being taken to the Magistrate Court

Police charge Indian fugitive Mehul Choksi with illegal entry into Dominica but he maintains that he was kidnapped; the controversial case continues

The mysterious arrival of fugitive diamantaire from India, Mehul Choksi into Dominica is slowly developing into another scandal, shrouded by mysteries and questions. Now, the 62-year-old Antiguan citizenship holder stands charged with illegal entry into Dominica.

Choksi, who is wanted by the Indian judicial authorities for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank of almost two billion US dollars, India's largest bank fraud in decades, appeared before Chief Magistrate Candia Carriette- George on June 3, 2021, following an order for the High Court.

Whilst his attorneys alleged that Choksi was kidnapped, beaten and unwillingly brought to Dominica, the Police claim that he entered the shores of Dominica illegally and has since been charged.

According to the charge read to him in court which Choksi pleaded not guilty to, on May 24, 2021, he did enter Dominica illegally at Toucari Beach.

At the hearing, Acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalrymple, pleaded with the court to not grant bail to the accused as she deemed him a "flight risk."

The Prosecutor listed two grounds for her claim which included, the fact that Choksi has an Interpol Red Notice against him as he is facing charges for 11 offences in India. Additionally, she revealed that the Antiguan government is currently undergoing court proceedings to have Choksi extradited.

Dalrymple further argued that Choksi has no ties in Dominica hence it would serve him no purpose not to flee the island if bail is granted.

However, one of the defendant's attorneys, Wayne Norde, refuted the prosecutor's grounds for objection and informed the court that the Indian fugitive is not a flight risk considering his health conditions.

Norde stated the Interpol Red Notice and the extradition proceeding in the Antiguan court is all the more reason for Choksi not to leave Dominica.

He advised the Magistrate that stringent conditions can be added to the fugitive's bail condition and proposed a bail sum of EC$10,000, double the maximum penalty for illegal entry, which Dalrymple asked the court not to consider.

Norde went on to note Section 4 of the new Bail Act indicates that a defendant is entitled to bail as a right unless the offence is of a serious nature.

"Various non-nationals in Dominica are on bail for similar matters, so we are of the view that bail can be granted to our client with or without conditions to his bail," he contended.

The attorney further informed that court that Choksi had no pending criminal matter in Antigua, the country in which he attained citizenship in 2017 but a civil matter which demonstrates that he is of good character.

In handing down her decision, the Chief Magistrate supported the prosecution's argument and denied bail. Magistrate Carrette-George noted that given the "severity" of the matter, she is not convinced that Choksi will stay in Dominica to stand trial and after reviewing the matter she was of the view that Choksi was "a flight risk".

Bail was denied and the matter was adjourned to June 14, 2021, in the Roseau Magistrate court.

Choksi is a patient at the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) since May 29, 2021; hence, the prosecution made an application pursuant to Section 212 of the Magistrate Code of Procedure that the defendant be brought before the court every three days to be further remanded in the custody of the Police at the hospital.

Choksi's attorneys have since filed a bail application in the High Court and a hearing is expected on June 9, 2021.

Meantime, after two days of a civil trial before High court Judge Birnie Stephenson, for Habeas Corpus, an order was made that the lawyers file submissions before the court for consideration by the judge to decide her ruling. The matter has been adjourned sine die.