Jet sent to fly Choksi to India: Antigua PM
- A Bombardier Global 5,000 jet of Qatar Executive mysteriously landed at Dominica’s Douglas Charles airport on Saturday.
India has sent a private jet to Dominica with documents linked to the deportation of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said on Sunday, even as officials in New Delhi indicated that the man wanted in the Punjab National Bank fraud case continued to be an Indian as his move to surrender his citizenship was not accepted by the government.
Indian-born Choksi mysteriously disappeared from Antigua and Barbuda, whose citizenship he holds, on 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.
Choksi may have left Antigua and taken a boat ride to neighbouring Dominica to have dinner or a “good time” with his girlfriend, the Antigua and Barbuda PM told a radio show in his country. There was, however, no immediate confirmation from Indian officials on Browne’s remarks.
A Bombardier Global 5,000 jet of Qatar Executive mysteriously landed at Dominica’s Douglas Charles airport on Saturday. It’s publicly accessible flight path showed that it took off from New Delhi on May 28 and reached Dominica via Madrid.
PM Browne, who has been vocal about not accepting Choksi back in his country after he was caught in Dominica, said: “My understanding is that [the] Indian government has sent certain documentation from courts in India to confirm that Choksi is indeed a fugitive.”
These documents, Browne added, will be utilised in a court case in Dominica, where a judge is hearing the matter and has put a stay on his repatriation till Wednesday.
Indian officials are in touch with their counterparts in Dominica to make an attempt to bring him back through the deportation route, because India has no extradition arrangements with the Caribbean country, people tracking developments said in Delhi.
But those efforts suffered a temporary setback after the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court agreed to hear a habeas corpus petition by Choksi’s lawyers, and ordered that he should not be removed from the country until further orders.
“The Indian government seems to be going all out to make sure he is repatriated to India to stand trial,” Browne told the FM channel in Antigua. The interview was posted by Antigua Newsroom on its website.
On the circumstances under which Choksi reached Dominica, Browne said: “The information that we are getting is that Mehul Choksi may have taken his girlfriend to Dominica probably to have dinner or have a good time and so on and got caught. That would have been a monumental error because in Antigua he is a citizen, we could not deport him.”
While Indian officials did not speak about the private jet, they said this was their “window of opportunity” to bring Choksi to India because once he reached Antigua, he will have citizenship rights and the extradition case can linger on for years.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told HT Choksi’s Indian citizenship was never cancelled, which could give an edge to India in Dominica to seek his deportation.
Choksi’s disappearance from Antigua and detention in Dominica has caused a political storm in Antigua, where he is citizen.
Antiguan PM Browne on Saturday accused the country’s key opposition party – the United Progressive Party (UPP) – of accepting funds from Choksi for its political campaigns.
The UPP issued a statement on Saturday in favour of Choksi, saying that he should get his constitutional and legal rights as a citizen of Antigua.
Browne hit back at the UPP, saying: “After mischievously accusing my administration of harbouring Mehul Choksi, who has an Interpol Red Notice, they are now seeking to sanitise this fugitive to get campaign funding... There has been no violation of Choksi’s legal and constitutional protections, despite the decision of my administration to revoke his citizenship.”
Choksi’s lawyers Wayne Marsh and Vijay Aggarwal have alleged the businessman was abducted from Antigua and tortured on the way to Dominica and in custody.
Reacting to Browne’s remarks on Sunday, Aggarwal said: “All these theories of Mehul Choksi fleeing from Antigua voluntarily are opposed to common sense. Firstly, he has a stay in his favour in Antigua. Secondly, I have been informed that his passport is in Antigua only, so nobody will try to escape without having his passport in his pocket. Brutal marks on body and this passport factor now establishes abduction claims.”
To be sure, Choksi is currently out of police custody and has been placed at a quarantine facility in Roseau, where he is allowed to meet his lawyers.
Dominica has indicated that he will be sent back to Antigua after ascertaining all the facts.
The acting police chief , Lincoln Corbette, said on Thursday that Choksi will be sent to Antigua.