ill fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi finally be deported to India? Questions and debates are flying thick and fast on the topic. However, the Indian government, one of the main players in the entire drama, is maintaining a stoic silence. The Antigua and Barbuda government which initially granted citizenship to Mehul Choksi now doesn’t want him back as the jeweller spends time behind the bars in neighbouring Dominica. An Indian jet waits at Roseau, the capital of Dominica to bring Choksi back with officials present in the island carrying the necessary documents.
Reports accusing Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne of playing a role in Choksi’s disappearance from the country has surfaced. He however, said Monday that he had no clue about the alleged abduction.
“Let me state here that even though Choksi’s citizenship was unsettled, we respected his legal and constitutional rights as a citizen. We did nothing to abridge those rights whilst he was on Antiguan and Barbudan soil,” Browne was quoted as saying on the news website ‘Antigua Newsroom’.
“If Antigua was ‘desperate’ to get rid of Choksi, the better option would have been to have the Indians come here. We could have asked them (India) to bring a plane and pack him on the plane and send him back to India,” Browne added.
The question however, is why did Choksi suddenly decide to go to Dominica when he was perfectly safe on Antiguan soil. Also how have injury marks appeared on different parts of his body as his latest pictures prove. The Indian businessman mysteriously disappeared from Antigua last Sunday and was detained by Dominican police Tuesday night on charges of illegally entering the island. Since then he has been in custody.
Many theories have been put forward regarding Choksi’s sudden disappearance from Antigua and resurfacing in Dominica. The Antiguan government was quick to point out that Choksi had gone ‘illegally’ to Dominica to meet his girlfriend. However that did not hold much credence and the theory of a ‘honey trap’ being laid for Choksi to lure him out of Antigua emerged.
Well there may some truth behind the ‘honey trap’ possibility, Choksi’s lawyers have claimed that the jeweler was abducted and forcibly taken to Dominica. It was a plan of the Indian government to get the diamantaire back to the country by any means.
An eight member Indian team is already in Dominica to conduct what is now being termed as ‘Mission Choksi’. The team reached the tiny island nation May 28 (Friday). Members of the team will be present at the court hearing Wednesday on Choksi. They will assist the Dominican public prosecutors in the case that has become politically controversial for the government there. Sources say two each from the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are part of ‘Mission Choksi’.
Sharada Raut, the CBI’s chief of Banking Frauds and posted in Mumbai, is a key member of the team. She is the officer heading investigations into the PNB scam that involves Rs 13,500 crore allegedly taken by Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi as loans with the use of fake documents.
Sources say if everything works to plan, the same team will bring back the jeweler in the private jet that the group took from Qatar to Dominica.
Sources have said that Choksi will be formally arrested at the Delhi airport the moment he lands. However, it all depends on what the Dominican court says and there are many ‘ifs’ to be solved.
As things stand both the heads of Antigua and Dominica have come under fire from the opposition in their respective states.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit came under fire for allegedly collaborating and being ‘part of a plot against the rule of law’ to send the fugitive diamantaire to India.
Dominica’s House of Assembly’s leader of the opposition Lennox Linton said a ‘full investigation’ should be the order of the day. He said circumstances under which Choksi was brought to Dominica should be looked into. The ‘obvious collaboration between Dominica, Antigua and India’ and the officials who instructed or influenced the police to facilitate the inhumane transfer of Mehul Choksi to Dominica should also be investigated, Linton asserted.
Skerrit is the second leader in the region to be targeted by the opposition over the tussle over Choksi. Antigua PM Browne has been severely criticised by the opposition who allege his government played a role in Choksi’s disappearance from the country. He has, on several occasions, suggested that Dominica shouldn’t send Choksi back to Antigua but deport him to India.
Choksi and his lawyers claimed that he was kidnapped and taken to Dominica against his will last week. His lawyer Vijay Aggarwal also suggested Monday that the businessman may have been honey-trapped by a woman he had known for six months. He had gone to her house when he was abducted and taken on a yacht to Dominica.
The islands of Dominica and Antigua are approximately 100 nautical miles apart. Authorities are now trying to find out why Choksi abandoned his car and went to Dominica.