By Shermain Bique-Charles
The leaders of opposition parties in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica are calling for the prime ministers of both countries to “come clean” about what exactly happened to Mehul Choksi on May 23 2021 – and to reveal the operatives behind his alleged kidnapping.
The latest demands — from Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell and Dominica’s Opposition Leader Lennox Linton — come on the heels of a decision taken last Friday by Dominica’s Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue the case against Choksi who was arrested and charged with illegal entry into Dominica in May last year.
The court’s decision was likely aided by a 19-page report written by law enforcement in Antigua and Barbuda dated June 25 2021.
According to Indian sources, who published portions of that report, the document states that a plethora of real and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that a case of kidnapping with broad collusion among multiple conspirators exists.
“This is a matter of grave significance. This is a serious matter. It is serious because it is an offence of kidnapping. When you are talking about the kidnapping from one nation to another, that brings to the fore the international criminal nature of this offence,” Lovell told Observer yesterday.
“Where did he get that? Was that part of the script? Was he told to say that? Is he a co-conspirator? He needs to come clean. I am calling on the Attorney General because he oversees law enforcement here and we have heard nothing from him,” Lovell said.
Authorities in Antigua and Barbuda have not spoken on the court’s ruling or on the findings of their alleged report.
The police report, according to Indian sources, said “the further along this investigation progresses, the more the facts are aligning with Choksi’s version of the events that led to his appearance in the state of Dominica”.
The report names five suspects and ranks two of them, an Indian man and a Hungarian woman, “at the top of the list of suspects”.
It also wants Interpol to be requested “to identify the location and possible return” of all five suspects to Antigua and Barbuda “to be interviewed”.
The document was reportedly submitted to the government of Antigua and Barbuda, and in its recommendations sought permission from the country’s authorities to secure a warrant for the Hungarian woman “for conspiracy to kidnap”.
However, National Security Minister Steadroy Benjamin said he has not been privy to this document, and Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney has not answered or returned Observer’s calls. PM Browne could not be reached for comment.
But Lovell said the entire situation “stinks to high heaven”, and claimed “this is a conspiracy that goes against the rule of law and every principle that we stand for”.
According to Lovell, the “massive cover-up of an international crime” could have serious implications for the twin island state.
“Unless the prime minister, attorney general, and the commissioner of police come clean, then we will be seen as a rogue nation. One that condones kidnapping. Who will be next in the country?
“It is a serious matter and it shows the rule of law under this prime minister has now been placed in the garbage bin. They need to tell us what they know,” he added.
Meanwhile, Linton is of the view that the public should put pressure on both heads of government to “tell the truth” about what happened to the 63-year-old diamond tycoon.
“Choksi didn’t just show up here [in Dominica]. He didn’t swim. There was a boat that brought him. The police authorities asked no question to the passengers or the crew who were directly involved in his [alleged] kidnapping,” Linton said.
He said based on the police report from Antigua and Barbuda, [which he has seen and read], Choksi was kidnapped.
“How, then, could he arrive, be taken off the boat by officers of the Coast Guard, and then brought to land but these police officers knew nothing about what happened in Antigua?
“They [police officers] were expecting him.
“The people of Dominica and Antigua must demand a full investigation into the conduct of the police and specifically the prime ministers of both countries and the minister of national security,” Linton added.
The police report from Antigua and Barbuda is based on investigations into hotel and villa bookings and car rentals made by the persons suspected to have allegedly kidnapped and tortured Choksi, as well as evidence gathered from CCTV recordings of the movements of the suspects on the island, records of taxis hired while they were in the country, and the tracking of two yachts said to have been used to transport Choksi to Dominica.
About the “Indian man” ranked at the top of the list of suspects, the police report states that he checked in to the Cocobay Resort and “initially reported that he was alone but the hotel staff reported subsequently seeing him in the company of a female” identified as the other top suspect.
“At 19.43” on May 23 2021 – the day Choksi went missing – the report states that the two top suspects and one other – a Briton from Essex, England – “left Antigua on an Executive Air charter flight (8P-EAL) and traveled to Dominica”. Documentary evidence in support of this is included in the report.
The report suggests a yacht named ‘Calliope of Arne’ was the main boat that carried Choksi from Antiguan waters to Dominica – a distance of 188 kilometres.
“On 23/5/21 Calliope of Arne cleared immigration at 09.20hrs but never left because later that afternoon a yachtsman reported seeing about three or four ‘mean-looking characters’ aboard the Calliope of Arne still anchored in the harbour.
“At about 5pm he saw the mast being hoisted slowly which raised his suspicion. After hoisting the mast, the boat sailed further out and began tracking from north to south and south to north continuously until after dusk when it was no longer visible. The witness reports that he did not see the ship the following day or ever since,” the report added.
The police report noted that when the yacht cleared immigration, it listed two suspects of Indian heritage “as passengers”. One was a British citizen, the other an Indian national. Both, according to their papers, were from Birmingham, England.
The Antigua police report recorded: “On 27th May 2021 Mrs Choksi spoke to her husband via telephone in Dominica and, according to her, he reported that he was lured to meet (the Hungarian woman suspect) at a Villa #407F on North Finger in Jolly Harbour (in Antigua) with the intention of going to dinner.
“On arrival at the villa he was pounced upon by about 10 men of Indian and local descent. A hood was placed over his head after he was tied to a wheelchair and gagged, and his phone and jewellery taken away.
“He was then beaten, tased and tortured before being wheeled onto a small boat docked at the back of the villa and taken out where he was transferred to Calliope of Arne.
“He was continually tortured and electrocuted along the journey which took him to Dominica on Monday 24th May 2021. On arrival at Portsmouth Harbour [in Dominica], a Coast Guard vessel came and he was taken to shore where there were high-ranking police officers awaiting who took him into custody. He was accused of entering the country illegally.”
Choksi’s legal team said they will continue to pursue all avenues for justice to redress the human rights violations committed against him.
Choksi also hopes that those responsible for his kidnapping will be brought to justice.
Choksi, who gained Antigua and Barbuda citizenship through the Citizenship by Investment Programme, is wanted by Indian authorities for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank of over US$2 billion, one of India’s largest bank fraud cases in decades.