Antigua’s Opposition leader Gisele Issac said the United Progressive Party is not opposed to fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi’s extradition to India, adding that the process has begun for the same in her country. In an interview to CNN-News18, Issac said what her party, is however, opposed to the manner in which the country’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has sought to do it.
Why is your party opposing the deportation of Mehul Choksi from Dominica? He is a fraudster, why would any country want to shield a fraudster?
The United Progressive Party is not absolutely opposed to extradition of Mehul Choksi to India. What we are opposed to is manner in which the Prime Minister (Browne) has sought to do it, because he is stripping a citizen of constitutional and legal rights to which he (Choksi) is entitled. United Progressive Party has no opposition whatsoever to Mehul Choksi’s extradition to India. The extradition process has begun in Antigua. It’s been going on for two years. You have never heard anywhere that we have opposed it. Actually we support it, support it being done the right way. We do not believe the prime minister ought to throw any citizen to the worlds…by saying to a third country ‘come and pick him up’… That is not how things are done and this is what we are opposed to – the manner in which the Prime Minister is asking Dominica to do his work. We support the extradition of anybody who has done wrong.
Your prime minister has accused the opposition of being in the payroll of Mehul Choksi for campaigning funds which is why you are bringing up the Constitution and protecting him.
Our understanding is that once you accept citizenship of another country, your Indian citizenship is automatically cancelled. India does not have dual citizenship. Therefore, when Mehul Choksi accepts the citizenship in Antigua under the Gaston Browne administration in 2017. When he moved here in 2018, it was Browne in office and not the United Progressive Party. He became a citizen when he got the passport. We never gave him citizenship, Browne did. Now, as far as the payroll accusations are concerned, what payroll? The current Antigua and Barbuda government has made it possible for people to become citizens by the CIP process without anybody knowing who they are. How would we know who Mehul Choksi was when he came here in 2017? We were not in office. Why would be on his payroll. We are aware that his wealth is under scrutiny. Why would be as a good opposition, as a good government from 2004 to 2014 can take money that is suspect. We have never taken money from Choksi. We have never solicited money from Choksi. The prime minister has to prove his accusation. He has been in the position from 2017 to make a profit from Choksi, not the opposition party. I categorically deny and challenge him to prove that we got any money from Choksi for any purpose. The political leaders have never met Choksi. It is a categorical lie.
Do you believe what Choksi’s lawyers are saying that he was kidnapped and taken to Dominica so that it would be easier to deport him to India?
I believe he was kidnapped because Choksi, like any rich person, enjoys a good life in Antigua. He was not restricted in any way. He was free to go anywhere. Apparently, he has money to spend, he lived in a good neighbourhood. Why would he go to Dominica? Everybody knows the standard of living in Antigua is above that of Dominica. The convenience is here. He has contacts here because he has been living well. Why would he at this point when he is in the middle of the extradition process, when he is already in court fighting the revocation of citizenship with the best lawyers fighting for him, leave behind his wife and go to Dominica. Why Dominica? Why Now? What has happened that would make Choksi run? He has nothing to run from here. He is not charged with anything. So when he turns up and says he was abducted and he shows evidence that he was beaten up, and this is what his lawyer says to the public, not to the opposition, and we see the bloodshot eyes, the jail cell, why would we not give it any credibility?
Who do you think was behind the abduction?
We have no idea. That is what we are hoping to find out. We have not heard from the police anything on the abduction. Information is not coming from the official channels. Everything we hear is from the Dominican press. Even this morning the prime minister said he is not the person to ask. We are the opposition and we don’t control the channel of informations. We too are waiting to hear. It feels like a bad movie to us and we are concerned that Antigua and Barbuda’s image is being tarnished by this whole Mehul Choksi chapter.