Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a fresh statement to CNN-News18 has hit out at the opposition United Progressive Party for accusing him of leaving a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, high and dry after his disappearance and subsequent arrest in Dominica.
“These loafers, laggards and charlatans (LLCs), are scavenging for issues, and yet again, failed to prioritise the national interest over their parochial political interests,” Browne said in a statement to CNN-News18.
“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,” Browne further said.
Antigua’s opposition — United Progressive Party — had earlier expressed serious concern over the recent statement of Browne where he indicated that Dominica should directly deport Choksi to India and not return him to Antigua and Barbuda.
“The statement is both irresponsible and frightening. It is not for the prime minister to decide who is entitled to the protection of the constitution. We are a nation of laws: Every citizen of Antigua and Barbuda is entitled to due process and the rule of law must be respected by all,” the opposition statement read.
“The alleged abduction and beating of Mr Mehul Choksi already paint an unflattering picture of the country, and Prime Minister Browne’s deliberate attempt to subvert and corrupt the rule of law makes us look even worse,” the statement further said.
Prime Minister Browne has also defended his suggestion to the Dominica government to directly deport Choksi to India.
“We live in a globalised world where cooperation among states is required to fight and defeat criminals; to deny criminals the use of the state apparatus for protection and advancement of their criminal conduct. That is precisely why we have and continue to encourage the government of Dominica, to make him persona non grata for illegally entering their country and to deport him to India where he is still a citizen,” Browne told CNN-News18.
“My request on behalf of the state, for Dominica to consider deporting Choksi directly to India, as a form of state cooperation to apprehend a fugitive, is perfectly acceptable. This request for state cooperation could never be construed by any law-abiding entity, of integrity and legitimate purpose to be an “ill-considered utterance. Additionally, the claim that the request undermines the rule of law, or Choksi’s constitutional rights is preposterous,” Browne further said.
Choksi’s Political Deal to Play Victim Card?
Meanwhile, Caribbean media reports have hinted at Mehul Choksi’s alleged deal with opposition leaders in Antigua and Dominica to raise the issue in the Parliament.
“It was alleged that the opposition leader of UPP, Jamale Pringle had an under table meeting with the family of fugitive Mehul Choksi and has made a special unofficial funding agreement with them to raise the voice of Choksi in the parliament”, Caribbean Media outlet WIC News reported.
“Whether it is the United Progressive Party (UPP) of Antigua and Barbuda or the United Workers Party (UWP) of Dominica, the two are on the race track to win a spot to back Mehul Choksi as they aspire to receive his support in their future political endeavours, these claims are made by some Caribbean political strategists with years of experience in the region,” the report further said.
Photos Show Choksi with Bruises of Face, Arms
In a startling development in spite of a media gag by High Court of Dominica, the fugitive’s lawyers have released photographs of a tense-looking Choksi in Dominica Police Custody. Four photographs released by attorneys of Choksi show him behind bars with a swollen red eye and bruises all over his arms.
The photographs have been released days ahead of the next hearing of the case on June 2 in Dominica High Court. The court had earlier put a restraining order on Choksi’s repatriation from Dominica. Choksi’s attorney had earlier accused Antigua Police of working with certain people who looked like Indians to stage his abduction to Dominica. Antigua Police has rubbished the baseless claims calling them without evidence.
Mystery Aircraft Lands in Dominica
In yet another dramatic development, a Mystery jet of Qatar Executive landed in Dominica’s Douglas Charles Airport earlier on Saturday. The publicly accessible flight path of the Bombardier Global 5,000 aircraft shows it had taken off from New Delhi before landing in Dominica via Madrid.
Antigua Media: Private jet from Qatar lands at Douglas Charles Airport Dominica. Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft of Qatar Executive has landed at Douglas charles Airport. Its arrival has raised questions about who it brought to Dominica and who will be leaving Dominica onboard? pic.twitter.com/gusMSD0V53— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) May 29, 2021
The spotting of the mystery jet in Dominica has raised speculation about Choksi’s imminent extradition to India after the June 2 hearing in the court. Indian Government and investigative agencies have refused to divulge any details of a possible joint team of Indian investigators on board the aircraft which landed in Dominica.
The author is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy, and Internal Security. He can be reached at Aditya.Kaul@nw18.com
Meanwhile, India on Saturday demanded that Choksi be handed over to India as he is originally an Indian Citizen.
According to ANI, multiple agencies are in touch with the government of Dominica to bring back Choksi who had taken on new citizenship to escape the law in India after having committed a fraud of about two billion dollars.