By- Ojasvi Gupta
Efforts of Indian authorities to gain custody of Mehul Choksi may bear fruit soon. On June 17, the businessman was ordered to move from policy custody to state prison. The order came from a magistrate court in the island nation of Dominica on Thursday according to the statement of his lawyer. India has approached the Dominica High Court seeking to be impleaded as a party in the case filed by lawyers of Choksi whose bail plea was rejected earlier this month.
The CBI and the Ministry of External Affairs officials have reached the CaribbeanCourt to be impleaded in the habeas corpus matter, which seeks return of the accused to Antigua and Barbuda, by filing two affidavits in the Dominican High Court. The central agency brought in the case, the establishing criminal culpability of Mehul Choksi, fugitive status, pending warrants against him, Red Notice, and charge sheets filed while the Ministry of External Affairs will attempt to establish that Choksi continues to be an Indian citizen. The admission of these two affidavits will be a great help in successfully pleading India’s case by Harish Slave.
Mehul Choksi along with his nephew Nirav Modi is the prime suspect in the Punjab National Bank fraud case, revolving a sum of ₹ 13,500 crore. He fled from India around the first week of January 2018 and has been absconding since then. However, he was traced and arrested in the island country of Dominica. For the first time in three years, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and other Indian authorities may be able to get a hold of him as news of his possible deportation from Dominica comes in.
His lawyers in Dominica, especially Vijay Aggarwal have contended that Mehul Choksi was removed from Antigua and Barbuda, where as a citizen of the country he enjoys the right to approach the British Privy Council as the last resort in cases regarding his citizenship and extradition, to Dominica where these rights are not available to him.“The aim to remove him from Antigua to Dominica was to diminish his protection under the prevailing law of the land. Choksi has ongoing proceedings in Antigua in regards to attempts by the Prime Minister to remove his citizenship, the only citizenship that he possesses at present, and to extradite him to India,”his lawyer had said. Though Choksi has to move to state prison, at present he remains at a hospital due to deteriorating health conditions. His legal team had submitted a medical certificate from doctors at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, where Choksi is undergoing treatment, of “mental stress” and elevated blood pressure since May 29.
The change in custody seems to indicate that India stands a chance to be heard and make a legal attempt to bring the fugitive back for a trial.The CBI had filed a supplementary charge sheet against him alleging him of having prior knowledge of the impending Enforcement Directorate enquiries against him in 2017 which triggered him to plan his escape from India even before his name came out in the fraud and cover his tracks by concealing evidence.It has invoked Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code among other charges which pertain to the destruction of evidence by a suspect as part of criminal conspiracy.