India sent private jet to Dominica carrying Choksi deportation documents: Antiguan PM

He also said that his understanding was that the documentation would be utilised in the hearing in the High Court of Dominica next Wednesday
Last Updated 30 May 2021, 16:41 IST

A private jet from Delhi has arrived at the Douglas Charles Airport in Dominica, where fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi is currently incarcerated after being arrested by the local police earlier this week following his mysterious disappearance from neighbouring Antigua and Barbuda.

A news portal of Antigua and Barbuda quoted the island nation’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne saying that the Qatar Executive aircraft had come from New Delhi carrying documents needed for legal proceedings for deportation of the 62-year-old billionaire from Dominica to India.

The Government of India, however, refrained from officially confirming that the aircraft had any connection with its effort to bring back Choksi to stand trial for allegedly colluding with his nephew Nirav Modi to defraud the Punjab National Bank of about Rs 13,500 crore.

New Delhi, in fact, is in touch with the governments of both the Caribbean Sea island nations.

Choksi was reported missing from Jolly Harbour township in Antigua on May 23. He was arrested from Canefield Beach in Roseau, the capital of Dominica, on May 26. Browne requested Dominican Government to deport Choksi to India, instead of repatriating him to Antigua and Barbuda (A&B).

The Dominican Government, however, decided to repatriate him to Antigua and Barbuda, but the High Court in Roseau blocked the repatriation after a Habeas Corpus petition was filed by the lawyers representing the diamantaire. The court set June 2 as the date for the next hearing on the case.

Browne was quoted by Antigua Newsroom portal stating that his understanding was that the Government of India had sent “certain documentation” from the courts in India onboard the Qatar Executive aircraft, which had flown from Delhi to Dominica via Madrid, to confirm that Choksi was “indeed a fugitive”.

He also said that his understanding was that the documentation would be utilised in the hearing in the High Court of Dominica next Wednesday. “So, the Indian Government seems to be going all out to ensure that he is deported to India so that he could stand trial there,” said the Prime Minister of A&B.

Choksi was granted the citizenship of the A&B by the Browne’s Government in November 2017. He had taken oath as a citizen of A&B in January 2018 – just days after fleeing from India. The Ministry of External Affairs had in February 2018 revoked the passports issued to both Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi.

The opposition United Progressive Party of A&B reminded Browne that Choksi continued to be a citizen of the country and every citizen was entitled to due process and the rule of law must be respected by all. The opposition leaders criticised the A&B Prime Minister for asking the Dominican Government to deport him to India.

Browne hit back and accused the opposition party of trying to secure funds from Choksi. “My administration’s revocation of Choksi’s citizenship has been frustrated by a litigation brought against the state,” the A&B Prime Minister said in a statement. “We are determined to revoke Choksi’s citizenship and to concurrently pursue his extradition to India to face criminal charges there.”

Choksi’s lawyer Wayne Marsh in Roseau alleged that the diamantaire had been abducted from A&B “by persons whom he believes to be Indian and Antiguan”, beaten and brought to Dominica.

A picture of Choksi was published by media portals in West Indies showing him behind bars in the capital of Dominica, apparently with injury marks on his hand and left eye.

(Published 30 May 2021, 06:43 IST)

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