Firestorm over Mehul Choksi spills over to Dominica, PM Skerrit is new target

Updated on Jun 01, 2021 06:51 AM IST

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is currently hearing the matter as the Indian government is set to seek his deportation directly to New Delhi. The court will hear the matter on Wednesday.

File photo of businessman Mehul Choksi.
File photo of businessman Mehul Choksi.
ByNeeraj Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Monday came under a sharp attack from the Caribbean nation’s main opposition party over businessman Mehul Choksi, accusing the prime minister of being “part of a plot against the rule of law” to send the fugitive diamantaire to India.

Lennox Linton, leader of the opposition in Dominica’s House of Assembly, also demanded a “full investigation” into the circumstances under which Choksi was brought to Dominica and into what he described as 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.

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.

PM Skerrit is the second leader in the region to be targeted by the opposition over the tussle over Mehul Choksi. Antigua PM Gaston 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.

Monday’s statement by Dominica’s lead opposition party accused PM Skerrit of playing along with Antigua PM.

“We demand urgent remedial action to remove the stain from this unfortunate incident on the image of Dominica and restore our country’s reputation as a responsible member of the family of nations, diligently carrying out the rule of law responsibilities of international development,” Lennox Linton said.

Choksi’s legal team has claimed that he was abducted from Antigua and taken to Dominica by Indian and Antiguan officials. On Monday, his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal suggested that Choksi may have been honey-trapped by a woman he had known for six months. Choksi had gone to her house when he was abducted and taken on a yacht to Dominica.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition on Choksi’s fate. The court will hear the matter on Wednesday when India is set to seek his deportation directly to New Delhi.

UWP leader Linton’s statement on Monday demanded an immediate end to what it called “no law, no constitution” governance conduct that disgraces Dominica as a rogue element in the family of nations and endangers the rule of law foundation for the advancement of civility in the global community.

“The presence of Indian born Antigua and Barbuda citizen Mehul Choksi in Dominica following allegations that he was kidnapped in Antigua, beaten, ferried to Dominica, and taken into the country against his will highlights once again the extent to which departments of government are involved in organized crime under the influence and/or direction of the regime of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit,” he said.

Asserting that Choksi’s citizenship issue is already pending in the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda, Linton said: “State actors under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Dominica appear to be part of plot against the rule of law protection guaranteed to citizens that is effectively undermining the judiciary in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court for the benefit of a foreign power.”

The removal of Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda, (where according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, he enjoys the constitutional privileges of citizenship) to Dominica, was intended to facilitate his transfer to India without having to wait on the outcome of the ongoing extradition proceedings scheduled for hearing in November 2021. To that extent, Dominica has been conscripted to unlawfully violate the constitutional rights of an Antiguan citizen for crass political purposes, the opposition leader said.

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