Indian team returns as Dominica adjourns hearing on Choksi’s habeas corpus petition
India that had flown to Dominica to bring back Mehul Choksi, the diamantaire wanted in the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank scam, is headed back home on a Qatar Airways private jet after the island nation’s high court adjourned the hearing on his habeas corpus petition, sources said.
A habeas corpus petition is filed for producing before a court a person who is under arrest or in unlawful detention.
Publicly available flight data showed that the jet took off from Melville Hall airport in Dominica at 8.09pm (local time) on June 3 and was travelling towards Madrid, Spain. The multi-agency team of officials is on board, the sources said.
The team led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut had been stationed in Dominica for nearly seven days to bring back Choksi, who is accused of defrauding the bank along with his diamantaire nephew Nirav Modi who is now in a London jail.
On Thursday, Dominica High Court adjourned the hearing on Choksi’s habeas corpus petition. It is likely that the next hearing may take place after a month and the businessman will remain in Dominica, local media has reported.
Judge Bernie Stephenson will decide the next date of hearing after meeting both sides, Antigua News Room said.
The adjournment is to allow Choksi’s lawyers and the Dominica government “to agree on the language to be used with respect to the injunction filed to prevent his removal from Dominica”, the media outlet said.
Thursday’s hearing was conducted through videoconferencing as a group of protesters stood outside the high court building in Roseau carrying placards with messages seeking to know the truth behind the controversy.
“Who brought Choksi to Dominica?” read one of the placards, a photo of which was published by many media outlets.
Choksi had gone missing on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been staying since 2018 as a citizen since he fled Delhi. He was detained in the neighbouring island country of Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade.
His lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen who appeared to be Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.
The judge had on Wednesday ordered Choksi’s production before a magistrate to face charges of illegal entry into Dominica.
The 62-year-old wheelchair-bound diamantaire, who has a pending Interpol Red Notice against him, arrived at Roseau Magistrate Court in black shorts and a blue T-shirt from Dominica-China Friendship Hospital, where he is undergoing treatment. His application for bail was rejected.
Choksi and Nirav had fled India in the first week of January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam rocked the Indian banking industry.
The duo had allegedly bribed officials of the government bank to get letters of undertaking (LoU) on the basis of which they availed themselves of loans from overseas banks that remained unpaid.
Some bank officials allegedly did not enter these LoUs in the core banking software of PNB, thus evading scrutiny. The non-payment of the LoUs or bank guarantees worth Rs 13,500 crore resulted in default and became a liability on the bank.