Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi was on Wednesday produced before a magistrate in Dominica to answer charges of illegal entry into the Caribbean island.

The move came following orders by Dominica High Court Judge Bernie Stephenson, who stated that Choksi must reply to the illegal entry charges, reported local media.

The decision was taken after nearly three hours of hearing on a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of the businessman.

Choksi has claimed that he was abducted from neighbouring Antigua and Barbuda and forcefully brought to Dominica.

During the hearing, the Dominican Public Prosecution Service told the high court that the petition filed by the diamantaire was not maintainable as he had illegally entered the country and was subsequently detained.

The prosecution urged the court to reject the habeas corpus plea.

Following this, Judge Bernie adjourned the hearing in the petition till Thursday.

The judge asked authorities to share court documents with Choksi, who is admitted at the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital.

His lawyers have said that he does not feel safe in police custody and that he should be sent back to Antigua and Barbuda.

Antiguan PM’s stand

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne on Wednesday reiterated that his administration stands by its request for Dominica to extradite Choksi directly back to India, “where he is still a citizen.”

“Instead of subjecting himself to an inquiry as required by law, he (Mehul Choksi) used the courts to stay the revocation of his citizenship,” Antigua PM told news agency ANI.

“My administration stands by its request to Dominica to extradite Mehul Choksi directly back to India where he is still a citizen,” he added.

The Antigua Prime Minister also shared a notice of 14 October 2019 in which he had proposed depriving Choksi of his citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda.

Indian team in Dominica

An eight-member multi-agency team — including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate — is in Dominica to bring back the fugitive if the court in the Caribbean allows his deportation to India.

The officers are coordinating with the local prosecutors to put forward India’s best case before the high court.

The team is arguing that Choksi continues to be an Indian citizen with an Interpol Red Notice against him.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) had earlier restrained Choksi’s deportation until further order.

The absconding businessman had gone missing on 23 May from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been staying since 2018 as a citizen. He was detained in neighbouring Dominica for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade with his rumoured girlfriend.

His lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.

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