The Mehul Choksi arrest saga has become a major political slugfest in the Caribbean region, with the region’s opposition parties and leaders accusing connivance of the Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda governments in the fugitive diamantaire’s alleged abduction.
The arrest of Choksi has become a political hot potato, especially in Dominica, where the Leader of Opposition Lennox Linton has accused the government of being involved in the ‘abduction’ of the fugitive from Antigua and Barbuda. The opposition leader has even suspected the Indian government’s role in extraditing Choksi via Dominica.
Linton said the abduction of Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda to Dominica, was intended to facilitate his transfer to India without having to wait on the outcome of the ongoing extradition proceedings scheduled for hearing in November 2021. Linton said Choksi is legally fighting the revocation of his citizenship and the matter is pending before the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda. He said the ruling party of Dominica had undermined the judiciary in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in their pursuit to help a foreign power.
“The presence of Indian-born Mehul Choksi in Dominica following allegations that he was kidnapped in Antigua, beaten, ferried to Dominica and taken into the country against his will, highlights once again the extent to which departments of government are involved in organized crime under the influence and/or direction of the regime of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit,” said Lennox Linton, in a statement given to Times of India.
Linton has sought an investigation into the breach of the law by the police, immigration and the custom officials, who he claimed had openly allowed to facilitate the operators of the St Lucia based schooner; detained Choksi on the allegations of illegal entry. He also asked to probe the role of the ministers of Dominica in the transfer of Choksi from Antigua to Dominica.
With the case boiling over, new revelations have emerged in the arrest of Mehul Choksi. It is reported that St Lucia-based yacht in which Choksi was transported to Dominica on May 23 declared three crew members and two Indian passengers to the authorities on departure from Antigua. However, it did not include Choksi’s name. Choksi was later arrested in Dominica with no passport. While the two Indian passengers were reportedly taken to quarantine, Choksi was arrested only to be quarantined 5 days later, on May 28.
Govt denies involvement
While the opposition parties in the Caribbean have alleged complicity of the governments of Dominica and Antigua in the arrest of Mehul Choksi, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has rubbished the allegations of his government’s involvement in the kidnapping.
” I can say this with reasonable certitude that neither we were involved nor had knowledge of the alleged abduction. If we were to be, we would have invited the Indian government to send a plane here. We would have picked him and repatriated him even though that would have been against his constitutional rights,” Browne said.
Mehul Choksi arrested in Dominica
Earlier yesterday, it was reported that Mehul Choksi was arrested with a help of a woman, who accompanied him when he landed in Dominica. It was initially alleged that the woman was Choksi’s girlfriend, but reports hinted that she was working in cahoots with the team that abducted him. A report published in India Today quotes sources close to the fugitive businessmen to claim the woman was part of the team, which was involved in his “abduction, torture and arrest”.
Dominican authorities had arrested Choksi on Wednesday for entering the country “illegally” from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been living since January 2018. The ‘missing’ ex-diamantaire was spotted in Dominica’s capital city of Roseau at the Canefield beach where he was disposing of some documents at sea. Police got suspicious and approached him. When he was asked about his purpose to visit Dominica, he refused to answer.
After Choksi was arrested in Dominica, it was speculated that he will be extradited to India. However, the hopes of repatriating PNB Bank scam accused Mehul Choksi to India was soon dashed as Dominica said that they will send him back to Antigua, not India.
Choksi’s role in the Rs 13,600 crore PNB bank fraud
Choksi, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, are accused of perpetrating bank fraud worth Rs 13,600 crore on Punjab National Bank. The fraud came to light in 2018 and he along with his nephew have been on the run since. While Modi is currently behind bars in the UK, Choksi was in Antigua.
Recently, a UK court had ruled that his nephew Nirav Modi will be extradited to India from the UK to face charges of conspiring to defraud PNB. Choksi faces charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty, including delivery of property, corruption and money laundering.