Mehul Choksi saga sparks row across Caribbean islands
Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne on Tuesday denied his government’s involvement in fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi’s disappearance from his country, even as a political row erupted in Dominica, where the 62-year-old has been apprehended, with allegations of the island’s government being part of a plot along with Antigua.
Indian-born Choksi mysteriously disappeared from Antigua and Barbuda, whose citizenship he holds, last Sunday, but was detained by Dominican police on Tuesday night on charges of illegally entering the island. The two islands are roughly 100 nautical miles apart.
Dominica’s leader of opposition, Lennox Linton, in an interview with HT, targeted PM Roosevelt Skerrit over the alleged abduction of Choksi, accusing him of being part of a plot that undermines the protection guaranteed to citizens of the region under the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).
Linton, leader of Dominica’s United Workers’ Party (UWP), demanded full investigation into the conduct of the police. “There has to be an investigation as to ‘who knew’, ‘who did what’, ‘why they did it’ and ‘how did we find ourselves in this situation where we appear to be facilitating this very unfortunate set of circumstances,” Linton said.
Browne, speaking with local media in Antigua, denied his government’s involvement in Choksi’s disappearance. “Let me state here that even though Choksi’s citizenship was unsettled, we respected his legal and constitutional rights as a citizen, and we did nothing to abridge those rights whilst he was on Antiguan and Barbudan soil,” he said. He has been attacked by the political opposition in the country for allegedly not providing protection to Choksi as a citizen of the island nation.
Meanwhile, Caribbean-based Associates Times reported on Tuesday that Mehul Choksi’s younger brother Chetan Chinubhai Choksi, who landed in Dominica on May 29, met Linton for two hours and promised to pay for election campaign in return for his support. Reacting to the report, the family’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said: “It is another one in the series of cock and bull stories being planted. Indeed Mr Chetan Choksi has arrived in Dominica to ensure medical attention to his brother. But he is in under mandatory quarantine and he cannot move out of his hotel quarantine facility. So all these stories are desperate attempts to malign my clients.”
The Mehul Choksi saga took a sensational turn on Monday with people familiar with the matter saying that a woman, who had become friendly with him over the past six months, played a part in his disappearance.
In New Delhi, an official said that a team that flew to Dominica last Friday to seek Choksi’s deportation includes two officers from the CBI, including a DIG.