Court in Dominica to hear Choksi case on Wednesday

Court in Dominica to hear Choksi case on Wednesday

Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court to consider implementation of International Red Corner Notice in India’s favour

Lawyers for fugitive businessman and diamond dealer Mehul Choksi and the public prosecutor in Dominica filed written submissions at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on Tuesday, ahead of a hearing on Wednesday on whether he will be deported.

As Indian investigators watch the outcome of the hearing carefully, lawyers are expected to argue over whether Dominica is prepared to implement the International Red Corner Notice in India’s favour, and whether his citizenship will be a factor in the court’s decision.

Mr. Choksi’s lawyers are asking the court that if he is deported, he should be sent back to Antigua and Barbuda, where he is already facing an extradition trial, as well as a case to revoke his Antiguan citizenship, but enjoys protection from immediate deportation to India.

“My client, Mr. Mehul Choksi, is citizen of Antigua and is entitled to all constitutional protections under the Antiguan Constitution and all remedies available to him under law which he has even successfully availed,” Mr. Choksi’s lawyer in India Vijay Aggarwal told The Hindu, alleging that Mr. Choksi had been “abducted” from Antigua by a group of individuals led by a woman, who had befriended him on false premises.

While Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said Mr. Choksi remains an Indian citizen, as he has not completed the renunciation process, Mr. Aggarwal pointed out that “as per Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, a person would cease to be an Indian citizen the moment s/he acquired the citizenship of any other country,” as Mr. Choksi did, when he received Antiguan citizenship in 2017.

Later he and his nephew Nirav Modi, who are accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of ₹13,500 crore in bad loans, fled India, and are being pursued by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigations. According to Mr. Brown, India has already sent a team of investigators carrying documents for the Dominica courts, and hope to transport him back to India if the court orders it.

“From our perspective, we need to prove that irrespective of his Antiguan citizenship, the crimes that he is alleged to have committed were committed when he was an Indian citizen and at least before he acquired Antiguan citizenship,” said Rupin Sharma, senior IPS officer and author of a book on extradition procedures. “Even foreigners can violate Indian laws and commit crimes and do not have any immunity if they are in India,” he added

Mr. Aggarwal however, made it clear that the manner of Mr. Choksi’s appearance in Dominica, exhibiting bruises and injuries would be part of the plea in the Dominica court, as they will make the case that he was forcibly taken from Antigua.

“All these theories of Mr. Choksi fleeing from Antigua voluntarily is opposed to common sense. Firstly, he has a stay in his favour in Antigua. Secondly, I have been informed that his passport is in Antigua only, so nobody will try to escape without having his passport in his pocket. Brutal marks on his body and the passport factor now establishes abduction claims,” said Mr. Aggarwal.

According to Mr. Sharma, who led the team that successfully ensured the extradition of underworld gangster accused of the 1993 Mumbai blasts conspiracy, Abu Salem from Portugal in 2005 after a long legal battle, the Choksi case could be complicated by the injuries, but the prosecutors team may also make the plea that it was the fugitive jeweller who had himself “stage-managed the disappearance himself to make it a multi-jurisdiction matter to complicate the extradition case and delay his return to India.”

When asked why the Interpol Red Corner Notice that was put out in December 2018 had not been sufficient for the Caribbean island countries to extradite Mr. Choksi to India, Mr. Sharma said RCNs only help with the “location and arrest of fugitives.” Except in some countries that allow extraditions for fugitives identified by the global coalition Interpol, there is no “obligation to extradite, he added.

“Extradition depends upon treaties — bilateral or multi-lateral as also on the reciprocity and diplomatic relations between countries,” Mr. Sharma added.

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