Mehul Choksi saga continues
The plot in the ongoing saga of an alleged Indian fugitive who mysteriously arrived on Dominica shores continues to thicken.
In the recent developments of this story, Mehul Choksi was denied bail, his wife appeals to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to not call her husband an Indian citizen, and Antigua to launch an investigation on Choksi's alleged abduction.
To begin, local attorneys for Choksi suffered a defeat as High court Judge, Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts denied bail to Choksi at a bail hearing in the High court.
Choksi who on June 2, 2021, pleaded not guilty to illegal entry into Dominica request for bail was first rejected by the Chief Magistrate Candia Carrette-George.
Through his attorney which includes Julien Prevost, Wayne Norde, Wayne Benjamin Marsh, and Cara Shillingford-Marsh, an application was filed in the high court for bail and the hearing commenced on June 8 and concluded on June 11, via zoom.
At the hearing, Choksi's legal team argued that as a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizen, he is entitled to such benefits since his alleged offense is not of a serious nature.
The attorneys further pleaded with the court to impose stringent measures as part of his bail conditions and said their client would be willing to pay any amount set out by the court as his bail sum.
Additionally, the lawyers stated, the fact that their client is unwell is all the more reason why bail should be granted as his ailment does not make him a flight risk.
However, the attorneys for the state which included Lennox Lawrence, Jodie Luke, and Heather Felix-Evans opposed Choksi's bail on account of him being a flight risk.
In response to the defendant's attorneys' argument, Lawrence said, the fact that an Interpol Red Notice was issued for Choksi as well as an extradition proceeding in the Antiguan court, maybe greater reasons to cause him to flee our jurisdiction to evade justice.
Following a near five-hour-long court proceeding, Justice Adrien-Roberts handed down her judgment in favor of the state attorneys and denied bail to Choksi on the basis that he is a "flight risk."
In her ruling, the Judge stated that Choksi "did not offer any strong surety before the court while he sought bail and he is a flight risk."
The defense attorneys had informed the judge that their client's brother had arrived in Dominica from India hence he would be able to ensure Choksi's presence in court at the set dates. However, Justice Adrien- Roberts said the proposed offer to have him stay with his brother in the hotel, is not a fixed address hence the court could not accommodate such a request.
The court also noted that since his trial had not started, the Judge was not satisfied that the accused had enough ties in Dominica to not flee.
She further stated that the court cannot impose any condition that will assure Choksi will not abscond. As such bail was denied; however, the attorneys were informed that they could reapply for bail at a later date.
Meanwhile, Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has since broken his silence on the ongoing saga involving the diamantaire.
Skerrit, who referred to Choksi as an "Indian citizen" said the accused rights will be respected and the courts would decide on the next course of action.
"The matter with this Indian citizen is before the courts and the courts will decide what happens to the gentleman and we will allow the court process to go through. I do not like to get involved by making a public statement in these matters," Skerrit stated publicly.
He added, "We have no issues so far as the matter relates to Antigua and or India, we are part of our own community and we must recognize our duties and responsibilities in this regard."
However, such statements did not sit too well with the wife of Choksi, Priti Choksi who called on Skerrit to "stop referring to my husband as an Indian, he is not."
Priti explained that her husband's passport was revoked by the Indian authorities since he obtained citizenship of Antigua in 2017.
"He is a citizen of Antigua & Barbuda and also CARICOM...according to the Constitution of India under Surrender and Renunciation of Indian Citizenship under the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, Persons of Indian Origin are not allowed dual citizenship. If a person has ever held an Indian passport and has obtained the passport of another country, they will be required to surrender their Indian Passport immediately after gaining another Country's nationality," Priti said.
According to her, prior to Choksi obtaining citizenship in Antigua, due diligence was done and no criminal complaint against her husband was found and as such, citizenship was issued.
She said their troubles began on January 31, 2018, when Choksi was made aware by the Indian government that they were investigating him for allegations of fraud. Priti noted that there are two sets of allegations made against her husband; however, he is fighting extradition to India because "he fears for his life."
"There is always the threat to his life and no one has stood trial in this case yet," she said. As it relates to his arrival in Dominica, Choksi's wife insists that her husband was kidnapped and she demands his release as, she said, due to his illness, his life is under threat.
"If anything happens to him in Dominica it will be a travesty of justice…the government should be fighting tooth-and-nail for its citizens. My husband was tortured and brought to Dominica so he should be returned to his family back in Antigua & Barbuda."
Choksi has been a patient at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) since May 29, 2021. His trial for illegal entry is expected to commence on June 14, 2021, at the Magistrate court whilst the High court has adjourned the Habeas Corpus matter sine die.
The 62-year-old diamond tycoon is wanted by the Indian judicial authorities for 11 fraud charges as it is alleged that he cheated the Punjab National Bank of over two billion US dollars, one of India's largest bank fraud in decades.