By Shermain Bique-Charles
The magistrate’s court in Dominica has deemed fugitive Mehul Choksi to be a flight risk and yesterday denied him bail.
Choksi, who is desperately wanted by Indian authorities in connection with a major bank scam, appeared before the court in Roseau to answer charges of illegal entry into Dominica on May 23. He pleaded not guilty.
The 62-year-old diamond dealer – an Antiguan citizen – has claimed he was kidnapped and forced onto a boat to the nature isle.
Where bail is denied in the magistrate’s court, the accused can then apply to the high court – and sources close to the matter say that is what Choksi will be doing today.
Choksi appeared before the magistrate’s court on Wednesday afternoon after High Court Judge Birnie Stephenson ruled that he should answer to the charges of illegal entry before she could proceed with a plea of habeas corpus.
Choksi’s legal team had argued that he had been arrested on May 23 and should have been brought before court within 72 hours.
Justice Stephenson accepted that, and ordered that he should be produced before the magistrate’s court yesterday at 4pm.
The documents were then rushed to the China Friendship Hospital where Choksi is still a patient.
Just before 4pm, Choksi, wearing a blue t-shirt and black short pants, was wheeled into the magistrate’s court in Roseau assisted by police officers.
Meanwhile the habeas corpus plea filed by attorneys representing him will be heard in the Dominica High Court today.
Choksi’s Dominican-based legal team, comprising Wayne Norde, Wayne Marsh, Cara Shillingford-Marsh and Julian Prevost, had filed the plea last week after he was detained in Dominica for apparent illegal entry.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Choksi’s counsel argued that their client doesn’t feel safe in police custody and said he was willing and able to pay for his return to Antigua.
Council for the state, Lennox Lawrence, asked the judge to strike out the affidavit submitted by Choksi’s attorneys saying it had been presented in haste and submitted just hours before the case.
Lawrence also contended that such a process by the “other side” is an abuse of the arms of justice.
Choksi has been living in Antigua since January 2018, shortly before the Indian bank fraud case came to light. He had acquired citizenship of the twin island nation through the citizenship by investment scheme.