Dominican court grants bail to fugitive Indian-born jeweller Choksi

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MUMBAI (Reuters) – A Dominican court on Monday July 12, 2021,  granted bail to Mehul Choksi on medical grounds, less than two months after the fugitive jeweler wanted in India’s largest bank fraud case, was detained for illegal entry into the Caribbean nation.

The court has allowed Choksi to travel to Antigua for cure of a neurological disorder that has no available treatment in Dominica, his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal told Reuters.

“He has to come back and face his cases,” Aggarwal said, adding that proceedings against him have been adjourned until he is certified fit to travel.

Choksi, born in India, was captured in Dominica in May, days after going missing from Antigua, which triggered a global manhunt.

One of the main defendants in the $2 billion fraud at India’s Punjab National Bank (PNB), Choksi had been living in Antigua and Barbuda after fleeing India before the fraud came to light.

Although Choksi secured a passport in Antigua, an Indian official told Reuters in 2019 that India still considered him to be a citizen and that the government was pushing for his extradition.

Choksi’s legal team has claimed he was kidnapped and forcefully taken to Dominica from where he was to be “whisked away to India bypassing the proper legal processes in Antigua and Dominica.”

Indian federal police have filed fraud charges against Choksi, his nephew, Nirav Modi, and others in connection with their suspected involvement in fraudulent transactions that led to losses of about $2 billion for PNB.

PNB alleged in 2018 that a few rogue employees had issued fake bank guarantees over several years to help jewellery groups controlled by Modi and Choksi to raise funds in foreign credit.

Both Modi and Choksi have denied any wrongdoing. Modi was arrested in London in 2019 and is fighting extradition to India.

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