Almost a year after fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi was arrested in Dominica, the Dominican Republic government has dropped all charges against him for illegal entry. A key accused in the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank loan fraud case, Choksi was arrested by the Dominican authorities on May 24 last year for illegal entry into the country.
In July, Choksi, who fled India in 2017, was released on bail on medical grounds, following which he went to Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been living since. An extradition proceeding is on against him in the Caribbean country based on a request from India.
“Choksi is pleased that the Dominican government dropped all charges against him for unlawful entry in May 2021. By doing so, they now recognise that there was never any case against him,” a spokesperson for Choksi said.
“Truth always comes out in the end, no matter how hard anyone tries to stop it or hide it. Lies are just temporary delays to the inevitable . It was extremely insensitive for some people to call injuries on my client Mehul Choksi to be fake because of some legal strategy,” Choksi’s lawyer in India, Vijay Aggarwal, said.
Choksi’s family and lawyers have accused India of plotting a secret operation to get Choksi back, bypassing legal procedures. They have alleged that Indian agents kidnapped the jeweller on May 23 last year by trapping him through a Hungarian woman identified as Babara Jarabic. He was then allegedly bundled off in a yacht and transported to Dominica by two Indians—identified as Gurmit Singh and Gurjeet Bhandal. His lawyers have also alleged that Choksi was threatened on his way to Dominica and asked to sign a consent form to be repatriated to India of his own will.
On May 24, 2021, Choksi flew out of Dominica in an air ambulance and was received in Antigua by officials of the foreign office there. Choksi was granted bail on medical grounds. The court allowed him to go back to Antigua as Dominica did not have the requisite facilities to provide him adequate medical care. The development had come as a serious setback to Indian agencies which had moved court in Dominica to repatriate Choksi to India.
Though the Dominican High Court had released Choksi on a bond of 10,000 Eastern Caribbean Dollars and asked him to come back to Dominica following his treatment, a source close to the family had said then, “He is very unwell. His treatment may take a long time.”
According to his London lawyer Michael Polak, this was done to deprive him of the protection of law that he enjoys in Antigua and Barbuda as a citizen of the country. India has argued Choksi is an Indian citizen, while he has maintained that he ceased to be an Indian citizen when he took Antiguan citizenship in 2017.
Following his arrest in Dominica, a private jet carrying officials from the CBI and Ministry of External Affairs had arrived in Dominica, ostensibly to get him back to India. However, after the case was committed to court on grounds of illegal entry against Choksi, the jet had to return.