In a statement said to have been smuggled out of a Dominican prison — where he has reportedly been held since May 25 — the absconding Indian-born diamond merchant Mehul Choksi
says he was abducted from the Caribbean island of Antigua on the night of May 23 and forcibly taken on a boat to the island of Dominica.
The Indian government is reported to have applied for his extradition to India in a Dominican court, which is scheduled to hear the case on Wednesday. Both Antigua and Dominica are members of the Commonwealth, of which the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth, is the head. She is additionally Antigua's head of state.
Choksi states a friend of his in Antigua called “Barbara Jabarika” invited her to her home. “So I went into the house… In three minutes there were about 8 to 10 people…And they said that we know who you are and you have to go for investigation just now with us… they just grabbed me and I tried to fight against them, but it was very, very hard, they came at me from all sides… they tied my hands, my legs and everything.”
He continues: “Then they brought one wheelchair… they tried to make a story that even the police of Antigua were involved in this….half of them were Indian, very, very strong like army people…And they put me on the wheelchair and whenever I was fighting, they would shock me with a taser…They tied me from behind, my legs and my body, my hands, everything. And they put a gag, very big plastic gag in my face.”
He goes on: “Then they got a mask and covered my head…And they put me in a boat, the whole entire wheelchair, then they put me on a big boat, a very big boat…then they took off the mask… There were two Indians. They said they were agents from India…The two gentlemen who were with me, they were Gurjit Singh and there was another name.”
He says furthermore: “At the last hour in the boat, I got a call from an Indian authority. He said his name is Narendra Singh. He’s on my case. And he said that when you are asked, when your interrogation happens in Dominica, say that this whole matter happened with your consent…They beat me, bruised me, used the taser. And after coming to Dominica, it was an unbelievable experience. What I went through for the next few days. It was so non-cooperation and so bad experience that I can’t put it in words (sic).”
Priyanka Choksi, Mehul’s Belgium-based daughter, said: “100% suspecting an operation by the Indian government to recover a 'fugitive'. My father was abducted; two mercenaries of Indian origin were on the boat." Her mother Priti was in Antigua when the incident occurred; and Priyanka said it was she who reported to the Antiguan police that her husband was missing after he didn’t return home until very late on May 23 night. Priti conveyed: "I am very disturbed that none of the surveillance cameras in Jolly Harbour (from where her husband, according to her, was whisked away) was working." CCTV recordings might have evidentially established the truth.
This correspondent attempted to independently verify the statement purportedly narrated by Choksi. A gag order has been slapped on his Dominican lawyer. However, a source supplied what seems to be testimony provided by Choksi.
The head of political affairs in the Antiguan foreign ministry Ross Loremol refused to discuss the matter or provide a phone number for the country’s prime minister, Gaston Browne. Neither the foreign minister nor the permanent secretary in the ministry were available for a comment.
Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s office accepted a request for an interview. But he had not responded until the time of going to press.
Choksi obtained Antiguan citizenship in August 2017. Six months later, he and his nephew Nirav Modi
(who is in the middle of an extradition procedure in London) were charged with defrauding Punjab National
Bank to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore. An Interpol Red Corner notice was issued for Choksi’s arrest and return to India. The constitution of Antigua, though, is said to protect him from being deported.
Since Queen Elizabeth
is Antigua’s head of state, in respect of proceedings for Choksi’s extradition, underway in the island, Sarosh Zaiwalla, head of the London law firm Zaiwalla & Co, was of the opinion: “The court of final appeal would be (Elizabeth’s) Privy Council in London. Members of the Privy Council are usually judges of the UK Supreme Court.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat in London maintained: "As this is a trilateral matter between Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and India, the Commonwealth Secretariat cannot become involved. Hopefully this will soon be settled through their negotiations."
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