As was earlier reported, the fugitive Mehul Choksi had gone ‘missing’ from the Antigua Island on the 23rd of May after he had gone out for dinner. A missing complaint was then filed by his family. And although his vehicle was later traced in Jolly Harbour, he was nowhere to be found. Soon, claims were made which said that he had fled to Cuba to steer clear of extradition to India. In no time, the Antigua and Barbuda Police had then filed a missing person notice with Interpol so that a Yellow Notice (A global police alert for a missing person) could be circulated.
India had formally sought Choksi’s extradition back in August 2018. He is currently on the scanner of both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. He has been accused of siphoning off 13,500 crores of public money from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), using letters of the undertaking; along with his nephew, Nirav Modi. Choksi had gained the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in November 2017 and had fled to the nation in January 2018.
While Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne had stated in 2019 that the Indian fugitive’s citizenship would be revoked and he would be extradited to India once all his legal options ended; his current legal status is still unknown and his lawyer has claimed that the PNB scam accused is still very much a citizen of the island nation. Amidst the claims of him being in Cuba, the fugitive was later caught hold of in Dominica three days after he had gone ‘missing’.
After Mehul was nabbed for illegally entering Dominica, on the 27th of May, his legal team had filed a Habeas Corpus petition, highlighting deprivation of constitutional rights. As per Vijay Aggarwal, Choksi’s advocate, the fugitive had several ‘torture’ marks on his person and was kidnapped by a group of people from Antigua and was taken to Dominica. In the meantime, Antigua had refused to take Choksi back. Due to this, his local lawyer Wayne Marsh had made scathing comments against the Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne. Marsh highlighted that Choksi was no longer an Indian citizen and it was a breach of human and constitutional rights to not take him back into the island nation.
Later, Choksi’s repatriation was temporarily stayed by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court until 9 AM on Friday, May 28th. He was then allowed to meet his legal counsel. Earlier, the Dominican government had claimed that it would make arrangements for the PNB scam suspect’s repatriation to Antigua and Barbuda, after confirming his citizenship status. Afterward, on Sunday, May 30th, the Antiguan Prime Minister vowed to revoke Choksi’s citizenship and extradite him to India to face the criminal charges, while he was lodged in a jail in Dominica.
Citing a reason as to why the main opposition, the United Progressive Party stated support of Choksi, PM Browne added that the fugitive had been funding the political party. And even though, it was decided that his citizenship would be revoked, Browne made it clear that no legal and constitutional rights of Choksi were violated. In another major development in the Mehul Choksi chase, the Indian Government on Sunday asked Dominica to treat Choksi as a ‘fugitive Indian citizen’ and return him to India, keeping in mind the crimes he has committed.
India has also announced that it’s High-Commissioner, based in Trinidad and Tobago to Dominica on 3rd June to seek the fugitive’s extradition. A court hearing is to take place on 2nd June, for which an Indian charter plane was flown from the national capital to Dominica with all the required proof and documents to substantiate India’s stance. Antigua PM Gaston Browne had said, “We respect the jurisdiction of the Court over this matter. My request on behalf of the State is for Dominica to consider deporting Choksi directly to India, as a form of state cooperation to apprehend a fugitive is perfectly acceptable.”
On the other hand, Antigua Police Commissioner, Atlee Rodney rubbished the claims of Choksi’s advocate which said that he was abducted by a group of people. As per Rodney, the Dominican police did not buy this claim as well and Choksi had rather used a boat to reach Dominica.
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