Antigua to investigate Choksi complaint he was kidnapped by ‘Indians’

Antigua to investigate Choksi complaint he was kidnapped by ‘Indians’

Choksi complaint references Indian “chief agent”, “high ranking Indian politician” for alleged abduction

 After repeatedly rejecting fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi’s claim that he had been abducted from the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said on Monday police there will investigate the “very serious” offence that Mr. Choksi might have been kidnapped to Dominica, ahead of a Tuesday hearing in Dominica for his bail application. 

“An abduction is a serious offence and assuming the veracity of that claim, law enforcement and the executive would be very concerned. And so I said this requires vigilance and surveillance and to ensure we step up our security to protect our citizens and residents,” PM Browne said in a radio interview, adding that he had earlier dismissed Mr. Choksi’s claims because Antigua and Barbuda do not have a ‘culture of abduction’. He also ‘categorically’ denied that the Antiguan authorities had been involved in Mr. Choksi’s disappearance on May 23 and mysterious appearance in Dominica in collaboration with Dominican or Indian authorities.

Mr. Browne had said last week Mr. Choksi had travelled to Dominica along with a ‘girlfriend’ for a ‘good time’. 

In his complaint dated June 2, Mr. Choksi has named the woman he claims entrapped him, Barbara Jabarica, and named “Indian men” — Narender Singh, Arminder Singh and Gurmit Singht — that he claims beat him up, forcibly took him on a boat to Dominica and interrogated him. 

Mr. Choksi, who is presently in a Dominican hospital due to the injuries he claimed he sustained during the abduction, has not directly named Indian authorities for the alleged abduction, but makes several references to the possibility that the men whom the complaint says “seemed to be highly experienced mercenaries or contractors, hired specifically for the purpose of detaining and abducting me in such a brutal and unlawful manner”, intended to take him back to India, where he faces charges in the ₹13,500-crore Punjab National Bank loan fraud case. 

Mr. Choksi also says Narender Singh asked him over the telephone not to disclose the names of any offshore accounts that he held, threatening him with ‘dire consequences’ when Mr. Choksi and his family were ‘back in India’, indicating that was the objective of the kidnappers.

In another part of the complaint, Mr. Choksi claims that Narender Singh, who introduced himself as the ‘chief agent in charge of the case’, told him he would be meeting a ‘high-ranking Indian politician’ soon, that Mr. Choksi’s citizenship had been ‘fixed’ with the Dominican authorities and he would be repatriated to India. 

On Monday, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the rights of Mr. Choksi, whom he identified as an Indian, not as Mr. Choksi claims, an Antiguan citizen since 2017, would be respected.

“His rights will be respected as has been done thus far and let the court decide what will happen. We have no issues insofar as the matter relates to Antigua and or India. We are part of our own community and we must recognise our duties and responsibilities in this regard,” Mr. Skerrit said, in the first such statement since the Dominican courts began to hear the case. Mr. Choksi’s lawyers have appealed for bail, which is likely to come up on Tuesday, while the trial on his ‘illegal entry’ into Dominica is expected to start on June 14. 

The Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the CBI declined requests from The Hindu for a comment on the case, and Mr. Choksi’s latest allegations in the complaint. 

The government has also consistently declined to comment on reports bolstered by PM Browne that an 8-member Indian team of investigators had travelled on board a special Qatar Airways chartered plane to Dominica, to provide documentation to the court and ostensibly take Mr. Choksi back to India if the court released him to their custody.

According to flight tracking software, the plane that was chartered from Doha left Delhi and landed in Dominica on May 28 and returned to Delhi on June 4, after the court decided to stay Mr. Choksi’s deportation and adjourned the hearing. 

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