New Delhi: In a major set back for India, the Dominica High Court has granted bail to fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, allowing him to travel to Antigua and Barbuda for treatment of his neurological condition, local media there reported.
The high court has granted a consent order by Choksi’s legal team and the state’s lawyer, permitting Choksi to go to Antigua, where he has been staying as a citizen since 2018 after he left India, after depositing Eastern Caribbean Dollars 10,000 (approximately Rs 2.75 lakh as per exchange rate) as bail money to seek medical attention from a specialized neurologist, Nature Isle News reported.
The court has also stayed the ongoing trial before a magistrate for his alleged illegal entry into Dominica on May 23, till his return, it said.
“Dominica courts finally upheld the rule of law and rights of a human to be treated in the medical facilities of his choice. And, all attempts by various agencies did not bear fruits. There is a solace in saying that all clever foxes end up as fur coats,” Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal told PTI.
While seeking bail, Choksi had attached his medical reports, including those of his CT-scan, which showed “mildly worsening hematoma”. Doctors have recommended an urgent review of his medical condition by a neurologist and a neurosurgical consultant.
“The services are not currently available on the island. All courtesies extended to him would be greatly appreciated,” the CT scan report dated June 29 signed by doctors Yerandy Galle Gutierrez and Rene Gilbert Veranes of the Princess Margaret Hospital of Dominica said.
Choksi has alleged that there is “some collusion” between Indian and Dominican authorities.
Citing documents obtained by him, the diamantaire has told the high court that Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Anurag had sent a letter to Dominica on May 25, a day after he was held, seeking his deportation to India at an early date.
“I am surprised and curious that the Indian authorities came to find out so soon that I was being detained in Dominica and issued that document with such swiftness. This confirms my belief that there was some collusion between Indian and Dominican authorities,” Choksi said.
Citing a letter on social media, Choksi has alleged that on May 25 the Dominica minister of national security and immigration declared him a prohibited immigrant.
He has alleged that prior to making the decision to declare him a prohibited immigrant, the minister did not tell him that he was considering doing so and did not give him an opportunity to be heard.
“In any event I did not voluntarily enter the Commonwealth of Dominica and verily believe that the said letter fails to take into account my being kidnapped and brought to Dominica or the fact that I am a citizen of Antigua. I am surprised that the minister moved so fast to make that declaration. I only arrived forcibly in Dominica on May 24, 2021,” Choksi said.
The high court order has come as a major jolt to Indian efforts to bring back Choksi, wanted in the Rs 13,500-crore scam in the Punjab National Bank, from Dominica, where he was held for illegal entry after his mysterious disappearance from Antigua and Barbuda.
His lawyers had alleged that he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda in an elaborate plot hatched by men of Indian origin and a mystery woman named Barbara Jabarica who had befriended him during last six months.
After news of Choksi being held in Dominica surfaced, India rushed a team of officials led by CBI DIG Sharda Raut to make every effort to bring Choksi back on the basis of a Interpol Red Notice against him.
His lawyer in London Michael Polak, who filed a complaint with the Scotland Yard, said Choksi was removed from Antigua and Barbuda, where as a citizen he enjoys rights to approach the British Queen’s Privy Council as a last resort in cases on his citizenship and extradition to Dominica where these rights are not available to him.
India’s effort to bring Choksi back was unsuccessful as his lawyers moved with unprecedented agility to file a habeas corpus petition before the Dominica High Court which was admitted for hearing.
Their swift legal manoeuvres coupled with investigation into circumstances of his disappearance from Antigua blunted attempts of India to get Choksi deported from Dominica.
The high court directed Choksi to face trial before a magistrate court for illegal entry and was denied bail. However, he was kept at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital considering his medical condition.
The CBI did not offer any comments on the development.