A magistrate’s court in Dominica on Thursday denied bail to fugitive Indian businessman Mehul Choksi after the government prosecutor argued that he is facing 11 offences in India and poses a flight risk.
On Wednesday, a Dominican high court judge passed an order that the charge of illegal entry by fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi be brought to the notice of the magistrate’s court on Thursday and posted the matter of habeas corpus for hearing at 9am on Friday.
Choksi was not in court earlier on Wednesday when the hearing of a habeas corpus brought by his lawyers were heard. However, following the court order to present himself, Choksi appeared at the magistrate’s court at 4pm local time and was represented by a battery of eight lawyers.
The judge, Bernie Stephenson, ordered that the court documents should be served immediately at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital where Choksi is being treated.
Meanwhile, amid rumours of alleged connection between fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi’s brother and Dominica’s opposition leader Lennox Linton was spotted inside the courtroom with Chetan Chinubhai Choksi during the hearing of Mehul Choksi in the High Court of Justice, confirmed Associates Times.
Choksi’s lawyers raised the allegation that he was kidnapped and was brought to Dominica against his will. However, the judge heard the arguments of the defence and satisfied herself that Choksi was getting proper medical treatment in the Dominica China Friendship hospital and took the attested briefs with exhibits on record.
Meanwhile, the prosecution lawyers appearing on behalf of the Dominican government pressed upon the issues of Choksi being a flight risk, having an Interpol Red Notice against him, and highlighted that he is an economic fugitive wanted by India and that he has no significant ties with Dominica.
“This is unheard in history that designated leader of the opposition is having a keen interest in a case which is about an international fugitive as he himself reached inside the courtroom to amplify the voice of Choksi against extradition and stood by his cousin Chetan Choksi,” the Associated Times reported.
Wait not over for Choksi
The defence lawyers offered to pay $10,000 as security bond and pressed upon Choksi’s Antiguan citizenship while pleading for bail. However, the court ordered his remand in custody till Friday and posted the hearing on bail for the same day while the charge on illegal entry to Dominica will be heard on June 14.
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The Indian government has been pushing to deport Choksi, wanted on ₹13,500-crore bank fraud case, to India because he doesn’t enjoy citizenship privileges in Dominica. An Indian team, including two officers from Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has reached the island to apprise local authorities of the “strong evidence” against Choksi and the need for him to face trial in India.
International political storm
The controversy around Choksi’s deportation also triggered a political row in the neighbouring island nations.
Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Tuesday denied his government’s involvement in Choksi’s disappearance and alleged that the opposition party United Progressive Party (UPP) was funded by the India-born businessman. UPP accused Browne of disregarding the law and Choksi’s constitutional and legal protection in Antigua.
In Dominica, leader of opposition Lennox Linton said his party sought a probe and alleged that Choksi was abducted at the behest of PM Roosevelt Skerrit. A day later, local media alleged that Linton had received a bribe from Choksi’s brother Chetan, a charge denied by the Opposition leader on Wednesday.