Illegal entry charge to citizenship question: Decoding the cases

  • Choksi was put in jail and his lawyers, and wife Priti, alleged he was abducted with the help of a woman, brought to Dominica, and tortured in custody.
Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi behind the bars at a Dominican police station. (ANI Photo)
Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi behind the bars at a Dominican police station. (ANI Photo)
Updated on Jun 04, 2021 04:40 AM IST
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ByNeeraj Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

In the evening of May 23, businessman Mehul Choksi went missing from Antigua. The 62-year-old left his home to go for dinner at a restaurant, and was never seen again. A manhunt ensued amid swirling rumours that he fled to Cuba. Three days later, Choksi was apprehended in Dominica on the basis of an Interpol yellow notice, triggering frantic efforts by India to deport him.

Choksi was put in jail and his lawyers, and wife Priti, alleged he was abducted with the help of a woman, brought to Dominica, and tortured in custody. Meanwhile, India sent a private jet and a team of investigators to convince Dominican authorities to repatriate the fugitive.

He is now part of two legal cases: one in a Dominican court on charges of illegally entering the island and another at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) on a habeas corpus petition filed by his lawyers.

‘Illegal entry charge’

On June 2, after Dominican authorities alleged that he entered the country illegally, justice Bernie Stephenson at ECSC ordered that Choksi will face “illegal entry” charges. Following ECSC’s order, Choksi was produced in court, where he pleaded “not guilty” and sought bail. A Dominican state attorney Sherma Dalrymple said Choksi entered the country illegally and deemed him a “flight risk”. The magistrate refused bail. adjourning the matter to June 14.

India, not a party yet

India is not a party to the ECSC proceedings in the habeas corpus, or writ that seeks to bring a prisoner or detainee before the court to determine if the detention is lawful. Legal experts said for India to seek Choksi’s deportation, a separate plea will have to be filed.

Dominica’s position

The island nation is yet to make it clear whether it is keen to repatriate Choksi to India. On May 27, Dominica issued a statement that it would repatriate Choksi to Antigua once details of his citizenship are ascertained.

Vocal Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne

Browne has said he will not accept Choksi back, and that Dominica should hand him over to India. He has denied allegations of Choksi’s lawyers and opposition that the fugitive was abducted by the country’s police and with Indian agents.

The jet and India’s silence

Authorities in New Delhi have been silent over reports of a private jet sent last Friday along with a team of 7-8 officials, and case files and documents to prove that Choksi is one of the top white-collar criminals wanted in India.

The mystery woman

Browne claimed Choksi left the country with his “girlfriend”, who has not been traced. Choksi’s lawyer said the woman was friendly with the Choksi family, and invited him to her house the day he went missing.

Wife fears for his life

Priti Choksi has alleged that her husband was abducted. She told HT that if he is sent to India, his life would be in danger.

The citizenship question

Officials said that Choksi’s Indian citizenship was not cancelled when he surrendered his passport, grounds on which it will oppose arguments that he is an Antiguan citizen and should be sent there.

What next?

After India submits documents in the court in Dominica seeking Choksi’s deportation, it will be heard in the court whether he should be sent to India or Antigua.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021