Choksi’s illegal entry case up for hearing in Dominica court today
The trial of fugitive Indian diamantaire Mehul Choksi for an alleged illegal entry into Dominica begins in Roseau Magistrate Court of the Caribbean country today. He has already been denied bail in the Dominica high court.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ministry of external affairs (MEA) have filed affidavits in Dominica high court establishing his Indian citizenship and crime committed by him in India.
How did Choksi become one of India’s ‘Top Wanted’ with an Interpol warrant in his name? HT brings to you a quick guide before Choksi takes the stand:
Who is Mehul Choksi?
Mehul Choksi is the owner of the Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery company. He is also the uncle of Nirav Modi and together, the duo is alleged to have defrauded Punjab National Bank of ₹13,500 crore. The fraud consisted of taking bank loans by raising Letters of Undertakings and showing fake transactions of jewellery import to India through shell entities.
Choksi and Nirav Modi fled India in January 2018. In February, CBI launched an investigation into the alleged scam. The agency made its first arrests in the case soon after -- two PNB employees and an executive of Modi’s group. In the same month, the Enforcement Directorate also seized a cumulative of ₹56.74 billion worth of diamonds, gold and jewellery from the offices of the accused.
A Mumbai court in June 2018 issued a non-bailable warrant against Choksi.
Also Read | Choksi a fugitive from justice, CBI tells court
In July 2019, Interpol issued Red Notice against him. A Red Notice is sent to seek the location or arrest of a person wanted by a judicial jurisdiction or an international tribunal with a view to their extradition.
Choksi has been in Antigua and Barbuda since 2018 as a citizen from where he went missing on May 23, 2021. He was found in Dominica the next day and has since been charged with illegal entry into the Caribbean country.
Choksi’s lawyers, Vijay Aggarwal, Wayne Marsh, and his wife, Priti Choksi, have alleged he was abducted and taken to Dominica.
While he is seeking to be repatriated to Antigua where he enjoys citizenship, Antigua PM Gaston Browne has refused to grant him entry and asked the Dominican government to directly deport him to India. Antigua has denied abduction charges but on a complaint filed by his lawyers, the island’s police is looking into the allegations, Browne said last week.
Case in Dominica court
HT on Saturday reported about two affidavits India has filed in the Dominica court detailing serious fraud charges against Choksi and proof that he continues to be an Indian citizen. Choksi’s lawyers have maintained he has given up his Indian citizenship and hence cannot be deported.
The Dominica court refused to grant Choksi bail saying he is a flight risk, and that he has no ties to the country. It observed the court cannot impose any conditions to ensure he will not abscond.
The CBI affidavit has called Choksi the “mastermind” behind a series of companies. It says there is evidence that the businessman laundered funds using dummy companies and market operators, round-tripped in the guise of fraudulent export-import transactions with entities in places such as Dubai and Hong Kong.
It says there is an Interpol red notice issued against Choksi, which is the highest level that can be issued in respect of a fugitive.
Choksi’s lawyers have pleaded he was abducted, tortured and brought to Dominica on May 23. While Dominica state prosecutors have denied the allegations and have booked him for illegal entry.