190121 Mehul Choksi
Mehul Choksi Image Credit: Supplied

New Delhi: A Dominica magistrate has denied bail to absconding diamond tycoon Mehul Choksi, who was arrested on May 23 for alleged illegal entry to the Caribbean island country, the local media reported.

Choksi, wanted here in connection with a Rs 13,500-crore fraud in the Punjab National Bank (PNB), pleaded before the magistrate that he was abducted and forcibly brought to Dominica from neighbouring Antigua and Barbuda, about 100 nautical miles away, Dominica News Online reported.

The 62-year-old wheelchair-bound diamantaire, who has a pending Interpol Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him, arrived before the presiding Roseau Magistrate Court in a black pair of shorts and a blue T-shirt from the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, where he is undergoing treatment.

The Dominica High Court, which was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Choksi, had ordered him to be presented before the magistrate to face charges of illegal entry.

A habeas corpus petition is filed for producing before a court a person who is under arrest or in unlawful detention.

"Our stand that Mehul Choksi is in illegal detention as he was required to be produced within 72 hours before the magistrate and was not so produced has been vindicated. In order to remedy this, he has been asked to be produced before the magistrate. This establishes the illegal detention of Choksi as pleaded by the defence. Contrary to numerous media reports, there was no discussion regarding the Government of India," Choksi's lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said here.

During the hearing before Magistrate Candia Carrette-George, the Dominica prosecution cited two main arguments to keep Choksi under detention -- the RCN against him and the ongoing extradition proceedings in the courts of Antigua and Barbuda, where he is staying since 2018 after leaving India.

Prosecutor Sherma Dalrymple told the court that Choksi is a "flight risk" and does not have any ties in Dominica that prevent him from fleeing the country if bail is granted.

Defence counsel Wayne Norde said Choksi was not a flight risk considering his health and the pending extradition proceedings in Antigua and Barbuda were also a reason for him not to leave Dominica.

Offering to pay a bail amount of ECD 10,000, double the fine amount for illegal entry to Dominica, Norde said Choksi did not have any criminal case in Antigua and Barbuda and the proceedings against him were civil in nature, which shows that he is a a man of good character.

The lawyer said the new bail act says a defendant is entitled to the relief as a right unless the offence is of a serious nature. In her order, the magistrate said considering the "severity" of the matter, she is not convinced that Choksi will stay in the country to face legal proceedings and adjourned the matter till June 14.