New Delhi: Priti Choksi, the wife of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, has said that her husband is treated as a criminal in Antigua because of statements made by prime minister Gaston Browne in the past, and that she fears for his life if he is sent back to India.
Terming her husband’s custody in Dominica as a “hostage situation”, she said Antiguan government should be focusing on bringing its citizen back.
Both jewellers involved in the fraud on Punjab National Bank, Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, moved their families outside India and then make good their own escape. Modi is currently fighting extradition proceedings in the UK.
“We, as a family, are deeply anguished by PM Gaston Browne’s statements. My husband is treated as a criminal here (Antigua) because of the statements that Mr Gaston Browne has made in the past of calling him a ‘crook’, etc.; and on what basis, I have no idea. A man who was trying to live his life quietly is being targeted in this manner,” Priti Choksi told HT over the phone from Saint John’s.
Expalining the sequence of events on Mar 23, she said Choksi went to meet Barbara Jarabica for dinner.
“When he reached her house to pick her up, she asked him to come inside, saying she wanted to show him something. It was the day time so my husband went inside. As soon as he entered, he was accosted by men with Indian and Antiguan accents; they tased him, gagged his mouth, tied him in a wheelchair; and put him in a boat. Then he was transferred to another boat. His last seen image is from 5.11pm on Sunday (and his phone was last on at 5.16 pm,” she said, adding that all the CCTV cameras at Jolly Harbour were not working around that time.
Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said this week that the woman in question was known to the Choksi family, and alleged that she was planted to abduct him. PM Browne, meanwhile, alleged that Choksi had gone to Dominica with his “girlfriend”.
Mehul Choksi, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, is accused of siphoning off ₹13,578 crore from Punjab National Bank through fraudulent LoUs (letters of undertaking) and Foreign Letters of Credit (LCs) and in connivance with bank officials. Modi is lodged in a UK jail while Choksi has been hiding in Antigua since 2017, where he is a citizen.
Choksi was reported missing on May 23, and was taken into custody by police in Dominica two days later. His lawyers have filed a habeas corpus petition in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court at Roseau. Indian government officials have reached there to seek his deportation.
Apart from presenting voluminous evidence on Choksi’s role in the fraud, and that he also laundered money, the Indian argument is expected to revolve around whether or not he continues to be an Indian citizen.
On claims by Indian officials that Choksi continues to be an Indian citizen, Priti Choksi said: “Indian constitution says that the moment you take citizenship of another country, you cease to be Indian citizen. And his Indian passport was suspended in February. So there is no question of dual nationality.”
“After seeing the pictures of his torture, don’t you think we have every right to fear for his life if he is sent to India?” she asked.