Antigua prefers Mehul Choksi be directly repatriated to India from Dominica
Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda prefers that fugitive Indian businessman Mehul Choksi, wanted in a major banking fraud, be directly repatriated to India from Dominica, where he is currently in custody. The "Choksi matter" was one of the agenda items discussed over during a cabinet meeting on Thursday chaired by Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne and attended by all his ministers, an official post informed.
Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi was reported to have gone missing on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda, where he was staying since 2018 as a citizen, but was recently found in Dominica. Now, the matter of repatriation of Mehul Choksi has triggered a political storm in the Caribbean island nations.
Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne has accused his country's opposition party -- the United Progressive Party (UPP) -- of supporting the fugitive businessman in order to secure its own campaign funding. Denying his government’s involvement in Choksi’s disappearance, Browne alleged that the UPP was funded by the India-born businessman. The UPP, on the other hand, accused Browne of disregarding the law and Choksi’s constitutional and legal protection in Antigua.
The office of the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in a post from its official Facebook account on Thursday, informed that the Gaston Browne-led cabinet meeting has decided to let law enforcement officials continue to gather intelligence in the circumstances of Choksi's "departure" from Antigua. "The preference of the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda is for Choksi to be repatriated to India from Dominica," the post read.
A Dominica high court has adjourned, local media reported, the Habeas Corpus petition filed on behalf of Choksi challenging his "illegal detention" in Dominica, where he was taken in custody for illegal entry after a possible romantic escapade with his rumoured girlfriend. His lawyers alleged that he was kidnapped from Jolly Harbour in Antigua by policemen looking like Antiguan and Indian and brought to Dominica on a boat.
Earlier in the day, a magistrate's court in Dominica denied bail to Mehul Choksi after the government prosecutor argued that he is facing 11 offences in India and poses a flight risk. Meanwhile, India's ministry of external affairs said on Thursday that all efforts would continue to bring back Mehul Choksi and that the country remains steadfast in its resolve that all fugitives are brought back.