Mehul Choksi, an Indian fugitive who has been in Dominica for over one week, pleaded not guilty to illegal entry at his court appearance today.
The 62-year-old is wanted by the Indian judicial authorities for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank of almost two billion US dollars, India’s largest bank fraud in decades.
The circumstances surrounding the mysterious appearance of the Indian fugitive on a remote beach in Dominica still remains a mystery.
Whilst his attorneys alleged that he was kidnapped, beaten and unwillingly brought to Dominica, the police claim that he entered the shores illegally and have since preferred the charge against him.
According to the charge read to Choksi in court, it is alleged that on May 24, 2021, he did enter Dominica illegally at Toucari Beach.
At the hearing, State Attorney Sherma Dalrymple pleaded with the court to not grant bail to the accused as she deemed him a “flight risk.”
The Prosecutor listed two grounds for her claim which included the fact that Choksi has an Interpol Red Notice against him as he is facing charges for 11 offences in India. Additionally, she revealed that the Antiguan government is currently undergoing court proceedings to have Choksi extradited.
Dalrymple further argued that Choksi has no ties in Dominica hence it would serve him no purpose not to flee the island if bail is granted.
However, one of the defendant’s attorneys, Wayne Norde, refuted the Prosecutor’s grounds for objection and informed the court that the Indian fugitive is not a flight risk considering the condition of his health.
Norde stated that the Interpol Red Notice and the extradition proceeding in the Antiguan court provide more reason for Choksi not to leave Dominica.
He advised the Magistrate that stringent conditions can be added to the fugitive’s bail condition and proposed a bail sum of EC$10,000.00, double the maximum penalty for illegal entry, which Dalrymple asked the court not to consider.
Norde noted that section 4 of the new bail act indicates that a defendant is entitled to bail as a right unless the offence is of a serious nature.
“Various non-nationals in Dominica are on bail for similar matters, so we are of the view that bail can be granted to our client with or without conditions to his bail,” he contended.
The attorney further informed the court that Choksi had no pending criminal matter in Antigua, the country in which he attained citizenship in 2017 but a civil matter which demonstrates that he is of good character.
In handing down her decision, presiding Magistrate Candia Carrette-George sided with the Prosecutor and stated that given the “severity” of the matter, she is not convinced that Choksi will remain in Dominica to attend his trial.
Bail was denied and the matter was adjourned to June 14, 2021, in the Roseau Magistrate court.
Choksi was further admitted to the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) where he has been a patient since May 29. Once he is discharged from the facility he will be placed in police custody.
Earlier today, the High Court began Choksi’s Habeas Corpus matter which is expected to continue in court tomorrow.