Antigua investigates Choksi’s abduction after complaint
Antigua and Barbuda has launched an investigation into allegations of the “abduction” of Mehul Choksi from the country on May 23 after the businessman filed a formal complaint with Royal Police Force there, the island nation’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said on Saturday.
Browne, however, reiterated that he doesn’t believe that Choksi was abducted from the country and the police’s “abduction” probe is on the basis of allegations levelled by Choksi in a written complaint.
Indian-born Choksi mysteriously disappeared from Antigua and Barbuda, whose citizenship he holds, but was detained by Dominican police on charges of illegally entering the island. The two islands are roughly 100 nautical miles apart.
“Mehul Choksi has filed a written complaint with the Antiguan Royal Police Force through his attorneys, claiming that he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda and taken to Dominica. It is a report that the police is taking very seriously and they are currently investigating the abduction,” Browne told a Caribbean FM radio station.
He added that he received information about Choksi’s formal abduction complaint on Friday.
“As I said earlier, it is unlikely that he was abducted as Antigua and Barbuda doesn’t have culture of abductions and the fact that there was no ransom (demanded),” Browne said in the radio interview.
Browne added that Choksi, in his written complaint, specifically named some officials of Antigua as “abductees”, seeking a probe into their conduct. Asserting that Antigua takes allegations of abduction seriously, he said that an investigation was being carried out.
“There is no truth to abduction theory; there is no violation of (his) any constitutional rights. This is a situation in which there is cooperation between two states to send a wanted person to India, who was found illegally in Dominica. How he was found there, we are not sure. Choksi has filed a formal report confirming that he was abducted, and law enforcement has an obligation to investigate the matter,” Browne added.
Meanwhile, a local website in the Caribbean ran a photograph of Choksi walking with a man, claiming that the person was behind the businessman’s escape plan to Cuba. The report could not be verified.
Choksi went missing from Antigua on May 23 when he was going for an evening walk. While the Antiguan PM has repeatedly said that he fled to Dominica with his girlfriend, the businessman’s wife Priti Choksi and lawyers -- Wayne Marsh and Vijay Aggarwal -- have alleged that he was abducted by Antiguan and Indian police officers, tortured and taken to Dominica in a boat. He has been charged for illegal entry in Dominica and is being treated at a hospital there after a court has adjourned the matter to June 14. A jet, which went last Friday with Indian officials hoping to get Choksi deported from Dominica, has since returned.
Browne denied any state-sponsored abduction of Choksi in collaboration with Dominica and India, as being speculated by opposition parties in the island and alleged by the fugitive’s legal team.
“As I said earlier, what is the possibility of Antiguan government having an agreement with Dominica to abduct Choksi, and take him to Dominica, to have him abducted for the second time (to take to India)? I mean we would have to put him on some kind of vessel to take back to India. This just doesn’t make any sense. Antigua and Barbuda have far more assets than Dominica, when it comes to accommodating large jets. If that (abduction) was to be considered, a private jet could have come (directly to Antigua) and would have taken him to India. There was no need to involve another country,” Browne said.
“Having said that, we would not accept the abduction of anyone, be a citizen or resident of this country,” Browne added.
Reiterating why he asked Dominica’s PM Roosevelt Skerrit to send Choksi directly to India, Browne said: “Choksi has no constitutional rights in Dominica. As an illegal alien, Dominica has an option to send him back to Antigua, where he has an unsettled citizenship, or back to India, where he is still a citizen because his request for revocation of his Indian citizenship has not been cancelled till date”.
Browne also rejected allegations by Dominica’s leader of opposition, Lennox Linton, last week that there was a collaboration between Dominica and Antigua in Choksi’s abduction. “For Lennox Linton to make any such statement, I will have my lawyer write to him. Even though Lennox is a friend, he will have to apologise publicly to make any such statement”.