Choksi pleads not guilty to entering Dominica illegally
ROSEAU – The India-born, Antigua & Barbuda citizen, Mehul Choksi, who claimed he had been kidnapped and forcibly taken to Dominica late last month, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a charge of illegally entering the island. He will return to the Magistrate Court on June 14.
Choksi, 62, appeared before Chief Magistrate Candia Carette George after High Court judge Bernie Stephenson-Brooks, who is hearing a writ of habeas corpus filed on his behalf ordered that he appeared in the magistrate’s court before the end of the day.
He was charged with entering the island illegally through Toucarie, a small fishing village located on the northwest coast, a port not approved as a port of entry.
Choksi pleaded not guilty, but the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalrymple objected to bail being granted, arguing that the accused is a flight risk and that Interpol has also issued a red notice, the highest notice issued against a fugitive, for his arrest.
She told the court that Choksi is also wanted in India on several matters and is fighting extradition to that country from Antigua & Barbuda.
The DPP said that if Choksi is granted bail, it is unlikely that he will be available for the court matter scheduled for June 14.
But attorney Wayne Norde, one of Choksi’s lawyers argued that given his client’s health conditions, he was not a flight risk and illegal entry into Dominica is not a massive penalty carrying a one-year jail term and a fine of U.S. $1,850.
He told the Chief Magistrate that if his client is granted bail, he was prepared to double the amount being required.
He also said his client has been in police custody for a week, and he is also a free person in Antigua & Barbuda.
But after hearing the arguments, the Chief Magistrate said based on the seriousness of the matter, including the Interpol red notice, she will not grant bail and ordered Choksi be held on remand first at the Dominica China Hospital, where he is receiving medical attention and transferred to the Stockfarm Prison on the outskirts of the capital until June 14, when the matter returns before her.