In a setback for India, fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi has been granted bail by the Dominican High Court on medical grounds. He can now travel back to Antigua and Barbuda to seek treatment. Choksi, however, will have to return to Dominica to face charges of illegal entry. His bail bond has been set at an amount of 10,000 EC (Eastern Caribbean) dollar.
Choksi had mysteriously gone missing on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been staying since 2018 as a citizen after he fled Delhi. He was detained in the neighbouring island country, Dominica, for alleged illegal entry. His lawyers claimed that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen, who looked like Antiguan and Indian, and then brought to Dominica on a boat.
Choksi had on Wednesday filed a case in the Dominica High Court against the chief of police, investigating police officer Alleyne Maximea, minister of national security Rayburn Blackmoore and magistrate Candia Carette-George.
His lawyers are seeking a declaration from the court that “the decision of the police chief and investigating officer to charge Choksi is an abuse of the process of the court and or a violation of the rule of law and is accordingly unlawful, null and void and of no effect”.
Choksi, who is a key accused in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB loan fraud case in India, also wants the court to quash the criminal charge against him for breach of section 27A of the Immigration and Passport Act.
His lawyers had asked the court for an order declaring that the decision of Rayburn Blackmoore, minister of national security, “was taken in breach of the principles of natural justice”. They are further seeking an Order of certiorari in which a higher court orders a lower court to deliver to it a case record for review of the lower court’s decision. They have also sought cost and damages on Choksi’s behalf.
The order has come as a major jolt to Indian efforts to bring back Choksi. His lawyers had alleged that he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda in an elaborate plot hatched by men of Indian origin and a mystery woman named Barbara Jabarica who had befriended him during last six months.
After news of Choksi being held in Dominica surfaced, India rushed a team of officials led by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) DIG Sharda Raut to make every effort to bring Choksi back on the basis of a Interpol Red Notice against him. The effort was unsuccessful as Choksi’s lawyers moved with unprecedented agility to file a Habeas Corpus petition before the Dominica High Court which was admitted for hearing.
The High Court directed Choksi to face trial before a magistrate court for illegal entry and was denied bail. However, he was kept at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital considering his medical condition.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had fled India in the first week of January 2018, weeks before a multi-crore scam in the Punjab National Bank rocked the Indian banking industry. The duo allegedly bribed officials of the state-run bank to get Letters of Undertaking (LoU) based on which they availed loans from overseas banks that remained unpaid.