Mehul Choksi denied bail by Dominican high court, called 'flight risk'
Mehul Choksi, the fugitive jeweller wanted in India in connection with the ₹13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, has been denied bail by the Dominica high court, news agency ANI reported on Saturday citing local media.
Judge Wynante Adrien-Roberts of Dominica high court denied bail to Mehul Choksi after the conclusion of the submissions made by both sides. The court also highlighted that Mehul Choksi did not offer any strong surety before the court while he sought bail and he is a flight risk too, Antigua Newsroom reported. Choksi's lawyers argued for bail citing medical grounds and not a flight risk.
Mehul Choksi, Adrien-Roberts said, has no ties to Dominica and that it cannot impose any conditions which will assure it that he wouldn't abscond, according to ANI. The high court also pointed that Choksi proposed he will stay with his brother in the hotel, which is not a fixed address. The court also noted that his trial has not started yet.
Choksi has got interim relief from immediate repatriation to India by the Dominican court.
The verdict comes a few days after Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called Choksi an "Indian citizen" and said the courts will decide what happens to him. Skerrit also said that the government will protect the rights of Choksi as he awaits trial. "The matter with this Indian citizen is before the courts, the courts will decide what happens to this gentleman and we allow the court process to go through," Loop Jamaica News quoted the Dominican PM as saying.
The Indian government filed two affidavits in the Dominica high court establishing Mehul Choksi’s Indian citizenship and the serious nature of the fraud he committed on PNB, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Sharda Raut, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) deputy inspector general handling the PNB fraud investigation, and Azad Singh, the consular officer at the high commission of India to the Commonwealth of Dominica, filed the affidavits on Thursday, a day before Mehul Choksi’s bail plea was to be heard in the high court.
Detailed evidence has been given in the affidavits against Mehul Choksi pertaining to criminal conspiracy, cheating and money laundering and the reasons why he needs to face investigations in India, the people cited in the first instance said.
The affidavits also say that Choksi’s surrender of Indian citizenship was never approved by the authorities and he was an Indian citizen when the crime was committed.
Choksi’s lawyers have sought to examine India’s affidavits.
Choksi has alleged that he was abducted from Antigua by the Indian and Antiguan police officers along with his woman friend, Barbara Jarabik, who was part of the plot according to his version of events, on May 23. He said he was then taken to Dominica in a vessel, in charges denied by Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
His habeas corpus plea in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) has been adjourned sine die. The plea talks about alleged torture and seeks repatriation back to Antigua, where he is a citizen.
(With agency inputs)