The multi-agency team tasked with bringing back Mehul Choksi from Dominica is headed home – without the fugitive jeweller – after the Caribbean nation’s High Court adjourned his habeas corpus petition to July and extended its order on removing him from that country.
The eight-member team – which includes Enforcement Directorate officials and the head of the CBI’s Bank Securities and Frauds (Mumbai) division – is flying home on a Qatar Airways private jet that took off from Dominica’s Melville Hall Airport Thursday night, according to news agency PTI.
The team was hoping to bring Choksi back to India if the Dominican court cleared his deportation.
The plane is scheduled to land at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport at 11 pm.
The Dominican High Court on Thursday adjourned its hearing into Choksi’s petition.
PTI quoted the Antigua News Room as saying it was to allow lawyers “to agree on language to be used with respect to injunction filed to prevent his (Choksi’s) removal from Dominica”.
Meanwhile, in a separate proceeding, a Dominican magistrate’s court also refused Choksi bail after he was charged with illegally entering that country.
His lawyers had argued that other non-nationals had received bail for similar matters, but the Dominican government tagged Choksi as a flight risk and pointed to Interpol notices against him.
Mehul Choksi, 62, was caught allegedly trying to escape from Antigua to Cuba via Dominica. He went missing May 23, prompting a manhunt by Antigua police, and was caught May 27 in Dominica.
After his arrest in Dominica, Antigua said Mehul Choksi should be handed over to India directly.
“We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face criminal charges against him,” Antigua News Room quoted Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
However, Choksi’s lawyer has said his client is no longer an Indian citizen and can only be sent back to Antigua, where he is already fighting cases related to his citizenship and extradition.
Mehul Choksi fled to Antigua in 2018, after purchasing a citizenship from that country, as CBI and Enforcement Directorate investigations into the loan fraud case were picking up pace.
Also on Thursday, India said it will continue to fight to bring Choksi back.
“India remains steadfast in efforts that fugitives are brought back… He is currently in custody of Dominica with legal proceedings underway…,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Choksi and his nephew, Nirav Modi, are wanted for allegedly swindling Rs 13,500 crore from state-run Punjab National Bank. Nirav Modi is currently in jail in London and contesting his extradition to India.
With input from PTI