Was considering India return, now wary about safety: Choksi
New Delhi Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who reached Antigua and Barbuda on Thursday after 52 days in custody of Dominican authorities, released an audio message soon after, claiming that he had considered returning to India to prove his innocence but is now “extremely apprehensive” about his safety in the country.
Choksi said the change was brought about by what he described as an “inhuman abrasion kidnapping” by Indian agencies, a reference to the allegation by his legal team and family that he was abducted from Antigua by 7-8 people on May 23, tortured and brought to Dominica in a vessel.
Choksi’s lawyers allege the kidnapping was a joint operation between Indian and Antiguan security agencies to get him deported to India where he is wanted in the ₹13,578 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud.
“I am back home but this torture has left permanent scars on my psychology and physically,” Choksi said in an audio message shared by his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal hours after the air ambulance hired by him for the 200km journey landed in Antigua.
A Dominican court this week allowed him to return to Antigua, whose citizenship he holds, for medical treatment, and ordered him to return to face charges of illegal entry after he is declared fit, a move that officials in Indian investigative agencies admitted was a setback to their efforts to have Choksi extradited. India flew a team of officials to Dominica, where Choksi mysteriously appeared on May 24 after going missing from Antigua the previous day. The diamantaire is a citizen of Antigua, although the country is engaged in a legal battle to revoke his citizenship; India’s position is that because Choksi’s relinquishment of citizenship wasn’t approved by the appropriate authority, he remains a citizen of India.
“Though till now, I have been seriously considering return[ing] to prove my innocence in India. My medical condition is very bad and it has worsened like anything in the last over 50 days of my kidnapping and I am extremely apprehensive about my safety in India. This was so inhuman…,” the 62-year-old businessman said in the statement, his first after he went missing .
Choksi’s statement also referred to the probe against him in India.
“Also, many times I have said that due to my poor health I am not able to travel and offered the Indian agencies to visit here (Antigua) and interrogate me. But this inhuman kidnapping was never expected by me,” Choksi, who has an Interpol red notice against him for the bank fraud case, said.
Choksi and his nephew, Nirav Modi, are accused of colluding with PNB employees to defraud the bank.