The setback to Indian investigating agencies in bringing fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi back from Dominica has come at a time when the government has been making all efforts not just to bring back Choksi but his nephew Nirav Modi and liquor baron Vijay Mallya from the United Kingdom in separate cases of money laundering. According to the Enforcement Directorate, Mallya, Modi and Choksi have defrauded public sector banks by siphoning off funds through their companies, which resulted in a total loss of Rs 22,585.83 crore to the banks.
Though unrelated, each case of these fugitives getting reprieves in foreign courts or suffering delays because of legal tangles being cited by foreign governments, like the Mallya case, are a setback to efforts by Indian investigating agencies.
Sleuths said fugitives like Choksi are taking benefit of the legal systems citing medical conditions, but as far as the offences are concerned, the courts or the foreign countries where they have taken shelter have not disagreed with the submissions made by the Indian authorities.
From the UK to India, fugitive Choksi’s legal team has welcomed the Dominican court’s decision to grant him bail to return to Antigua for medical treatment. The court also adjourned his judicial review application and the criminal proceedings against him for unlawful entry.
“Dominica courts finally upheld the rule of law and rights of a human being to be treated in the medical facilities of his choice,” said Vijay Aggarwal, Choksi’s lawyer in Delhi.
The Indian agencies cannot challenge Choksi‘s bail for the reason that they are not party to the case of his unauthorised entry into Dominica. But a close watch is being kept on Choksi and his return to Antigua, where the Indian government has submitted its case for his immediate deportation.
Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne had said he won’t allow entry to Choksi, who is a fugitive of law, and his government has legally moved to withdraw his Antiguan citizenship. All eyes are on whether the Antiguan government shows the political will to deport Choksi.
“The order of Dominican court granting interim bail to Choksi is not binding on Antigua. So in its own right, the Antiguan government can take any decision,” said a senior government official.
Meanwhile, in London, Justice Abroad’s director and international barrister Michael Polak, who is representing Choksi as part of his legal team, said the Dominican Court has made a humanitarian decision to release Choksi, so that he can access specialist medical care in Antigua.
“Choksi has been through a very difficult few weeks and has been subject to an ordeal, which has had a detrimental effect on him physically. It is the right outcome that he be able to return to Antigua, where he can access the medical attention that he requires and be with his family,” Polak said.
An investigator said the collective efforts of countries should be to cooperate on deportations of fugitives as efforts to give more weightage to their rights are in conflict with rights of citizens and institutions who have been victims of the offence. For now, the delay in bringing Choksi back to India to face the law has put a spanner in the multi-crore PNB scam case.