Dominica High Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing on a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of diamond trader Mehul Choksi, local media reported. Judge Bernie Stephenson will decide the next date of hearing after meeting both sides, Antigua News Room said.
The adjournment is to allow lawyers for Choksi and the Dominica Government “to agree on the language to be used with respect to the injunction filed to prevent his removal from Dominica”, the media outlet reported. The hearing took place through video-conferencing with a group of protesters standing outside the High Court Building in Roseau carrying placards with messages seeking to know the truth about the controversy.
“Who brought Choksi to Dominica?” read one of the placards, the photo of which was published by many media outlets. The High Court is hearing the habeas corpus petition filed by Choksi’s lawyers.
A habeas corpus petition is filed for producing before a court a person who is under arrest or in unlawful detention. The judge had on Wednesday ordered production of Choksi before a magistrate to face charges of illegal entry into Dominica.
The 62-year-old wheelchair-bound diamantaire, having a pending Interpol Red Notice against him, arrived before the Roseau Magistrate Court in black shorts and blue T-shirt from the Dominica China Friendship Hospital where he is undergoing treatment. Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had fled India in the first week of January 2018 weeks before a Rs 13,500 crore scam in Punjab National Bank rocked Indian banking industry.
The duo allegedly bribed officials of the state-run bank to get Letters of Undertaking on the basis of which they availed from overseas banks which remained unpaid. Choksi had mysteriously gone missing on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda where he has been staying since 2018 as a citizen.
He was detained in neighbouring island country Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade with his rumoured girlfriend. His lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.
‘Going to appeal to the Queen of England’
Meanwhile, Priti Choksi, the wife of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, on Thursday said she will appeal to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth for help as she fears that her husband’s life is in danger if he is repatriated to India.
“We are going to appeal to the Queen of England to free Mehul Choksi,” she said in an interview to CNN-News18.
On being asked about “kidnapping” of Mehul Choksi on May 23, his wife claimed that he was abducted by the agencies from India, Antigua and Dominica who tortured him and contemplated to kill him.
“The mystery woman with whom he was last spotted is Barbara. She was an acquaintance and was a part of the kidnapping plot. Agencies from India, Antigua and Dominica have kidnapped my husband. He was tortured. At one point, some men with Indian accents on the boat had contemplated killing and throwing him in the sea,” she said.
“He (Mehul Choksi) cannot travel back to India because there is a threat to his last life. The kidnapping and torture have confirmed that fear,” she added.
The 62-year-old businessman had gone “missing” a few days back from Antigua and Barbuda, but was later caught by police in Dominica. Choksi claimed, though his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal, that he was abducted on May 23 from Jolly Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. He further alleged that those who kidnapped him in collaboration with Antiguan officials had “links to India”.
Choksi has also claimed that he was brutally beaten up, tortured and taken to Dominica in a vessel where he was arrested.
Some photos of Choksi surfaced which showed him standing behind an iron gate with grilles, which seems to be a lock-up in Dominica. Other photos showed him with a red swollen eye, bruises and injuries on his hand and wrist.
On June 1, India along with Dominica Police submitted affidavits in Court with proof that Mehul Choksi was a fugitive who had escaped India. The affidavits also include Indian passport copy of Mehul Choksi which proves that he still is an Indian Citizen.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted for allegedly siphoning Rs 13,500 crore of public money from the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) using letters of undertaking. While Modi is in a London prison after being repeatedly denied bail and is contesting his extradition to India, Choksi took citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in 2017 using the Citizenship by Investment programme before fleeing India in the first week of January 2018. The scam came to light subsequently. Both are facing a CBI probe.
(With inputs from Shreya Dhoundial and PTI)