Mehul Choksi's Caribbean run: Here is what happened to fugitive jeweller

Choksi was last seen going for dinner in his car in the island nation on Sunday, 23 May after which his staff had reported him missing.
A court in Dominica has restrained local authorities from removing fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi from the country, throwing up another hurdle to India's attempts to have him brought home and tried in India's largest bank fraud case.

Choksi, 62, and his nephew Nirav Modi are accused of siphoning off Rs 13,500 crore from state-run Punjab National Bank using fraudulent letters of undertaking. Here is a run-through of events that unfolded over the week.

Choksi gone missing after dinner

Choksi was last seen going for dinner in his car in the island nation on Sunday, 23 May after which his staff had reported him missing. Police recovered the car after a search but Choksi could not be found, a statement from the Antiguan police said on Monday night India time.

His lawyer Vijay Aggarwal confirmed that Choksi had been missing since Sunday. “Police in Antigua have started search operations for him. The family is worried about his safety. We are keeping a watch on developments,” Aggarwal told media.

Captured & Detained in Dominica

The Antiguan police later issued an Interpol Yellow Notice against Choksi.  He was later captured in Dominica. Confirming Choksi's presence on its soil, the Dominican Ministry of National Security stated that he has been "detained" for illegal entry into the country.

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"The Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs is in communication with the authorities of Antigua and Barbuda to ascertain some facts, including the status of his Antiguan citizenship," it said.

"Once the information is provided by the Antigua authorities, possible arrangements will be made for Mr Mehul Choksi to be repatriated to Antigua," the statement further added.

Request for direct repatriation to India from Dominica

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has asked neighbouring Dominica to hand the diamantaire over to India directly, according to local media reports.

"We asked them not to repatriate him to Antigua. He needs to return to India where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him," Antigua News Room, a media outlet, quoted Browne's interaction with journalists in Antigua and Barbuda.

Choksi will not have the same rights in Dominica as he has in Antigua and Barbuda, where he has taken citizenship in 2017 under the Citizenship by Investment programme, Browne indicated.

The prime minister believes for this reason, it would be easy for Dominica to repatriate him directly to India, the report said.

India gets in touch with authorities

A PTI report quoted sources saying India was in touch with Antigua and Barbuda on the matter and now contact has been established with the government of Dominica.

"We are in touch with them. Our interest in getting fugitives like Choksi and others remains strong," said a source, adding the focus has been to bring them back to the country at the earliest.

New theory of abduction emerges

Choksi’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus petition in a court of the Carribean island country after they were allegedly not given access to him, his legal counsel Vijay Aggarwal said. It was only on May 27 that they were finally given access to speak to Choksi.

“The legal team has filed a habeas corpus petition in Dominica for Mehul Choksi and have also highlighted deprivation of access to Mehul Choksi and deprivation of constitutional rights to legal assistance,” Aggarwal told PTI.

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According to an ANI report, Wayne Marsh, Choksi's lawyer in Dominica said, "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".

Order of stay on repatriation

Efforts by Indian authorities to get Choksi has hit another roadblock now as the High Court of Justice Commonwealth of Dominica on Friday put a stay on his repatriation.

"This order is to be served immediately on the Defendants by email and fax and in person, and the Head of Immigration at the Douglas Charles Airport by email and fax," stated the Court order.

The court will hold the next hearing in the matter on May 28 at 9 am local time.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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