Fraud accused CIP investor seeks to appeal ruling of Antigua Court

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Within a matter of days, Mehul Choksi will know whether or not the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court will permit him to appeal the decision of a High Court judge who dismissed his application for an expert witness to challenge the validity of an extradition request from his native land, India.

That is according to his lawyer, Dr. David Dorsett, who confirmed that the hearing is scheduled to take place on June 17, 2019.

Choksi, who is a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) here, is wanted for an alleged multi-billion-dollar fraud on the Punjab National Back in India.

Last year, Dr. Dorsett filed a suit against the state, and the case was heard before High Court Justice Rita Olivetti on November 14 and again on December 12, 2018.

But, back in mid-December, the judge dismissed the application for Choksi’s witness to testify.

Earlier, Dr. Dorsett told OBSERVER media, “We had before the court an application to adduce expert evidence on Indian law as to exactly when did it become lawful for India to make extradition requests of Antigua. The judge, Justice Rita Olivetti, denied that application and we indicated to the court that we would want leave to appeal her decision.”

The appeal was subsequently filed within the 14-day timeframe given.

The case for extradition, he said, cannot go forward until there is a determination as to what evidence can be accepted as it relates to Section 9(4) of the Extradition Act.

That section, which addresses the procedure and authority for extradition, states: “On receipt of any such request the Minister may issue an authority to proceed unless it appears to him that an order for the return of the person concerned could not lawfully be made, or would not, in fact, be made, in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”

The lawyer said he had raised this particular section because, “as currently framed, [it] does not provide a person against whom an adverse decision is going to be made, an opportunity to make representation and that is in contravention of the right to the protection of the law.”

The lawyer had earlier indicated that if the appeal fails in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, he will advance the case to the Privy Council, which is Antigua and Barbuda’s final appellate court.

Meanwhile, news agencies in India reported that the Bombay High Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing Choksi’s applications in that country until June 10, as he termed the investigation into the PNB scam case as “incomplete” and sought further probe.

Choksi had filed two applications–one against him being declared a “fugitive economic offender” and another to permit him to cross-examine a person based on whose statements the Enforcement Directorate had declared him an offender.

India media also reported that on Monday a special court had issued a notice to the CBI on Choksi’s application. The plea filed by Choksi’s counsel in that country, Vijay Agarwal, came up for hearing before Special CBI Judge UM Mudholkar, who posted the matter for hearing to June 17.

The application contends that “There has been an incomplete investigation of various vital aspects by the investigating officer. The IO has submitted an incomplete charge sheet before the court without making a proper and complete investigation.”

It also alleged that the incomplete investigation led to the “failure” of Choksi’s business and highlighted that “the failure of the applicant’s business was termed as ‘fraud’ by the CBI. The flaws were on the part of the bank and the auditors and not the accused.”

The petitioner claimed that the CBI filed “false” FIRs against him on February 2 and February 15, 2018.

Choksi, the chairman of the Gitanjali Group, is accused along with his nephew, Nirav Modi, of the alleged crime against the Bank.

In February, a Blue Corner Notice was issued against them both, then in July, Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against Modi based on money laundering charges levelled by the Enforcement Directorate.

Both men left India in the first week of January, weeks before the alleged scam was reported to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Choksi is currently in Antigua, where, according to his lawyer, he has been under medical supervision for a serious heart-related issue which allegedly makes him medically unfit to fly.

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