Indian team returns as Dominica suspends hearing on Choksi’s habeas corpus petition
India who traveled to Dominica to bring back Mehul Choksi, the diamond dealer wanted in the Punjab National Bank rupee 13,500 crore scam, returns home on a Qatar Airways private jet after the island’s high court has adjourned the hearing on his habeas corpus petition, sources say.
A habeas corpus petition is filed to bring in court a person under arrest or unlawful detention.
Publicly available flight data showed the plane took off from Melville Hall Airport in Dominica at 8:09 p.m. local time on June 3 and was on its way to Madrid, Spain. The team of multi-agency managers is on board, the sources said.
The team led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut had been stationed in Dominica for almost seven days to bring back Choksi, accused of defrauding the bank with his diamond nephew Nirav Modi who is now in a London prison.
Dominica’s High Court adjourned the hearing on Choksi’s habeas corpus petition on Thursday. The next hearing is likely to be in a month and the businessman will stay in Dominica, local media reported.
Judge Bernie Stephenson will decide the next court date after meeting with both parties, the Antigua News Room has said.
The adjournment should allow Choksi’s lawyers 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 outlet said.
Thursday’s hearing was conducted by video conference as a group of protesters stood outside the Roseau High Court building, carrying signs with messages seeking to know the truth behind the controversy.
“Who brought Choksi to Dominica?” Read one of the signs, a photo of which was published by many media.
Choksi had disappeared on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has resided since 2018 as a citizen since he fled Delhi. He was detained on the neighboring island of Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic getaway.
His lawyers claimed he was kidnapped at Jolly Harbor in Antigua by police officers who appeared to be Antiguan and Indian and taken to Dominica on a boat.
The judge had ordered the production of Choksi before a magistrate on Wednesday to face charges of illegal entry into Dominica.
The 62-year-old wheelchair-bound diamond dealer, who has an Interpol red notice pending against him, arrived at Roseau Magistrates’ Court in black shorts and a blue T-shirt from the Dominique Friendship Hospital. China, where he is undergoing treatment. His request for bail was denied.
Choksi and Nirav had fled India in the first week of January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam rocked India’s banking sector.
The duo allegedly bribed government bank officials to obtain Letters of Commitment (LoU) on the basis of which they availed themselves of loans from foreign banks that remained unpaid.
Some bank officials reportedly failed to enter these LoUs into PNB’s core banking software, thus escaping scrutiny. Failure to pay LoUs or bank guarantees worth Rs 13,500 crore resulted in default and became a liability for the bank.