The Dominican government argued in court on Wednesday that Mehul Choksi -- the fugitive diamond trader wanted over the Rs 14,000 crore loan fraud at the Punjab National Bank -- be deported to India. The Dominican Public Prosecution Service has told the High Court that the petition filed by the 62-year-old is not maintainable and should not be heard. India will push for his early deportation, contending that he continues to be an Indian citizen, a government official has told NDTV.
Mehul Choksi -- who was caught in Dominica last week while allegedly trying to move to Cuba to escape extradition to India -- attended the trial via video-conference. He is currently at a hospital, being treated for his injuries his lawyers say he sustained during the alleged kidnapping from Antigua.
His team -- including Queen's Counsels Justin Simon and John Carrington -- contends that he was abducted and brought to Dominica. If the court accepts the argument, he will be sent back to Antigua, where he had obtained citizenship and moved before he could be brought to book in India.
After he was caught in Dominica, Antigua said he should be deported straight to India. In both nations -- Antigua and Dominica -- the opposition parties have accused the ruling parties of collaborating with Mehul Choksi.
"Our stand that Mr Mehul Choksi is in illegal detention as he was required to be produced within 72 hours before the magistrate and was not produced, has been vindicated," Mehul Choksi's lawyer Vijay Aggarwal told NDTV, referring to the High Court order that he be produced before the Magistrate Court at 4 pm local time.
"Contrary to numerous media reports, there was no discussion regarding government of India," he added.
The habeas corpus case will be heard again on Thursday depending on the order of the magistrate court, where criminal proceedings are on against Mehul Choksi for allegedly entering Dominica illegally.
An eight-member multi-agency team -- including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate -- is in Dominica for Choksi's extradition. The government has also sent its High Commissioner from Trinidad & Tobago to assist the officials.
An official of the Union Home Ministry has told NDTV that India is of the view that Mehul Choksi acquired Antigua citizenship on basis of false declarations "and we have been opposing it".
Mehul Choksi's team has argued that the new Citizenship rules cannot supersede the Constitution of India. "Article 9 of the Constitution states that any Indian applying for foreign citizenship on any grounds will lose Indian citizenship by default. So India's plea will not hold any merit," a lawyer representing him has said.
Mehul Choksi and his nephew, celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, had skipped India in January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam surfaced. Later, it became known that he had taken citizenship of Antigua two months before.