New Delhi: The Mehul Choksi saga took a sensational turn on Monday with people familiar with the matter as well as the fugitive businessman’s lawyer claiming that a woman, who had become friendly with him over the past six months, played a part in his disappearance from Antigua and reappearance in Dominica.
Photographs of the young woman, identified as Barbara Jarabica, were released by Antiguan media, with details of her education and employment, but HT could not verify the existence of such a person.
News of the woman first emerged on Saturday, when Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne claimed that Choksi fled the island for Dominica last Sunday along with his “girlfriend”.
Choksi, wanted in India in a fraud and money laundering case, fled to Antigua in January 2018and became its citizen. He has been engaged in a legal battle with the Caribbean nation which wants to revoke his citizenship. Choksi went missing from Antigua last Sunday and later mysteriously appeared in Dominica, where he has no rights since he is not a citizen. His lawyers are trying to have him sent back to Antigua — Browne has already said he wants Choksi to be extradited to India — while India has made a claim for him in Dominica, on the grounds that its citizenship law requires the state to accept his renunciation of citizenship and this never happened.
Choksi’s legal team has claimed he was abducted from Antigua and taken to Dominica by Indian and Antiguan officials.
On Monday, his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal suggested that Choksi may have been honey trapped.
“I have been informed that there was some lady who was the part of the team deployed to trap and abduct Mehul Choksi. Initially, she was staying near the residence of Mr Mehul Choksi. She got friendly with the whole family during her evening walks . Later, she shifted the residence and invited Mr Choksi to her house for a short while. There were other members of the team waiting (at her house) deployed to pick Mr Choksi. They grabbed him, threw him in a yacht and took him to Dominica. As Mehul Choksi was not carrying his passport and that lady has vanished, this is sufficient to vindicate the stand that he was abducted,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the fugitive diamantaire has been shifted to a hospital in Roseau , but tested negative for Covid-19, reports in local media said. He is now at the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, on Friday, ordered that Choksi will not be removed from the island till next hearing on Wednesday and that he should be tested for Covid-19 and provided medical attention.
Browne also confirmed that India sent a private jet to ferry Choksi back to the country.
One of the key opposition parties in Antigua, United Progressive Party (UPP) has claimed that Browne’s statement that Choksi would not be taken back in Antigua is against constitutional and legal values; in turn, Browne has alleged that UPP is funded by Choksi.
Indian agencies have taken all the documentary evidence available against Choksi including charge sheets filed by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), witness statements and papers showing his complicity in defrauding Punjab National Bank (PNB) of ₹13,578 crore along with his nephew Nirav Modi.
Officials HT spoke to said they have a “strong case to put before Dominica’s authorities and the court that Choksi is one of the most wanted persons in India and siphoned off public money over the years to create assets in India and abroad”.