Fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi’s claims that he was brought to the island as part of a plot between Dominica, India and Antigua and Barbuda were rejected by Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Thursday. The PM Skerrit called such allegations “total nonsense”.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, this is the first time PM Skerrit was responding to accusations by Choksi and his family that the government of the three countries colluded to send Choksi to India to stand trial in a bank fraud case of Rs 13,500 crore.
Skerrit said it was absurd. “To say that the government of Dominica and the government of Antigua along with India colluded in any way, give me a break, that’s total nonsense. We don’t get involved ourselves in those kinds of activities, those practices, not at all. I mean that is absurd and we reject it and it is unfortunate that anybody would want to propagate this unsubstantiated claim by a gentleman who is before the courts,” Skerrit was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
He further said “whether it would be fair for a local who commits murder in Dominica and flees to another country, is allowed to roam free or instead be apprehended and sent back to Dominica to face his charges". Citing the case of a Dominica citizen wanted by the United States whose extradition proceedings are going on in courts to counter opposition on Choksi, Skerrit said the country cannot treat people differently depending on who they are or how much money they may have.
“All of us are subjected to the laws irrespective of our position or how much money we may have or how much we don’t have. And I believe that in this circumstance Dominica has a right and obligation to apprehend this person and bring the person before the courts and let the courts determine," he said.
“We here in Dominica with the opposition talking about Choksi but there is a young boy from Grand BayWhere there is an extradition request by the United States government on allegations that he committed a crime in St Thomas and we are mandated and obligated to apprehend him. “And the police acted on the instruction of the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) arrested the young man and he is remanded at the state prison awaiting his extradition hearing. His lawyers will fight his case. If the courts believe that there is no reason to extradite him to the United States then he will go freely," Skerrit was quoted by PTI as saying.
Choksi’s lawyer in Dominica Justin Simon claimed that United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police, known as Scotland Yard, has started looking into allegations of torture and kidnapping of Choksi as citizens there were allegedly part of the plot, the news site reported. Simon told media that there will be international implications if Dominica or Antigua turns out to be involved in the alleged plot, it said.
Meanwhile, there are rumours that Choksi is planning to evade from Dominica as his Syria-born Antiguan close aide Hani Salloum is believed to have arranged a boat to take him to an unknown location, sources had told CNN-News18. After he was reported “missing" on May 23 from Antigua and Barbuda, PNB scam accused Choksi was later detained by Dominican government for illegal entry into the island country.
According to some sources, it is suspected that Salloum, who has already arrived in Dominica, has met Choksi’s brother Chetan Choksi to plan a safe passage of the absconding businessman to an unknown location. The sources further shared that Salloum owns a transportation business in Antigua and Barbuda and residing there for last several years.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had fled India in the first week of January 2018, weeks before a multi-crore scam in the Punjab National Bank rocked the Indian banking industry. The duo allegedly bribed officials of the state-run bank to get Letters of Undertaking (LoU) based on which they availed loans from overseas banks that remained unpaid.
(With inputs from PTI)