Mehul Choksi's repatriation stayed by Dominica court, 'Govt's sovereign decision,' says Antigua PM
A Dominica court has put a stay on the repatriation of fugitive Mehul Choksi after Choksi's legal team in Dominica filed a habeas corpus petition and highlighted that he was denied legal rights and was not allowed to meet his lawyers initially, local media reported. The matter is expected to be heard again on May 28 at 9am local time. This comes after the acting police chief of Dominica Lincoln Corbette told Hindustan Times that the fugitive businessman, wanted in India in multicrore PNB scam, will be repatriated to Antigua and not to India.
Currently, Choksi is in the custody of Dominica Police and is being investigated, police said.
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Under a habeas corpus petition, an arrested person has to be brought before a judge, especially to secure the person's release "unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention". Choksi's Dominica lawyer Wayne Marshe said it is a "travesty of justice" as Choksi is entitled to legal representation — be it in Antigua or Dominica.
Choksi's lawyer in India Vijay Aggarwal said his client was picked up by various people from Jolly Harbour, where his car was found after his sudden disappearance, and then he was taken to Dominica.
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"I noticed that he was severely beaten, his eyes were swollen and had several burnt marks on his body. He reported to me that he was abducted at Jolly Harbour in Antigua and brought to Dominica by persons whom he believed to be Indian and Antiguan police on a vessel he described to be about 60-70 feet in length," Choksi's lawyer in Dominica Wayne Marshe told ANI.
After Choksi was apprehended in Dominica, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he asked Dominica to hand Choksi over to India directly. But the legality of that in the absence of an extradition arrangement between India and Dominica was questioned.
"Ultimately, it is the sovereign decision of the government of Dominica as to which country they repatriate Mehul Choksi unless the Court states otherwise," Browne told ANI.
Dominica is not among the 58 countries with which India has either extradition treaties or arrangements, while it has the same with Antigua and Barbuda. In such cases, the decision of where a fugitive will be repatriated depends on local authorities.
(With agency inputs)