Fugitive’s British lawyer claims Antigua police won’t probe matter thoroughly due to ‘political influence’
By Shermain Bique-Charles
A branch of the UK’s London Metropolitan Police which deals with terrorism and torture continues to probe the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mehul Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda.
The war crimes team of the force’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is looking into the matter as it is in charge of investigating offences of universal jurisdiction, Choksi’s British attorney Michael Polak told Observer in an exclusive interview.
On May 23, the Indian-born diamantaire, who is wanted in connection with a US$2 billion fraud in his native country, was reported missing by his wife Priti, who claimed that her husband left their Jolly Harbour residence and did not return home.
Two days later, it emerged that Choksi had appeared in Dominica, claiming to have been abducted and tortured before being handed over to lawmen in Roseau.
British attorney Michael Polak, who has dealt with high-profile cases involving international law, serious crime, human rights, and strategic litigation, confirmed to Observer at the weekend that he had filed a complaint with the war crimes team, on the grounds that Choksi had been tortured.
“In this case what has happened to Choksi, is that he was brutally kidnapped from Antigua to Dominica,” Polak said.
“He was handed over to Customs and police and they kept him without a lawyer for three days. We believe what was intended for him was to be released from Dominica before anyone knew he was there and take him to India,” Polak explained.
The lawyer said the private jet which landed in Dominica shortly after Choksi was reported to be on the island, supported his suggestion that the intention was to transport the fugitive to India.
“He was given a piece of paper and he was asked to sign it and was told that he will be taken to Antigua. He didn’t sign it because he didn’t see the word Antigua,” Polak said.
Dubbing the entire situation “a huge breach to the rule of law”, Polak also believes that the situation brings embarrassment to the islands involved.
“It has become very embarrassing to Dominica, a country which states they believe in the rule of law. We hope that the judges in Dominica are brave enough to stand up against the executive of that country,” he said.
“If we allow powerful states, just because they are stronger and they have more money, to take people, kidnap people away from where they have legal processes going on, then we can’t say we believe in the rule of law at all,” Polak added.
London’s Metropolitan Police has not responded to several requests for comment from Observer.
Meanwhile, police in Antigua and Barbuda are also investigating Choksi’s alleged abduction following an official complaint the 62-year-old made claiming the twin island nation’s officers had been involved.
Polak claimed, in Antigua’s case, there is very strong evidence about what took place and who is involved but he is not confident that lawmen here will be able to handle the matter fairly because of political influence.
“The evidence is already there. All it needs is proper investigations. Whether that is going to happen in Antigua, with political pressure, we are not so confident of that. The police in Antigua needs to be able to operate outside of political influence.
“This is a major international crime which started in Antigua and they have the evidence,” he told Observer.
The evidence, according to the renowned attorney, includes the hiring of an Airbnb with a jetty and a dummy run in April.
“There are all kinds of evidence about what happened on that day and who was involved, when they left the island and with whom they travelled. There was a dummy run in April where the same journey was made by the exact same individuals. The Antiguan authorities have that evidence; all we need them to do is properly investigate what is going on,” he said.
A spokesman for the Antigua and Barbuda police declined to comment.
Polak is more confident about the process in the UK, since according to him, “it doesn’t matter where the crimes take place, the English courts have jurisdictions to try them”.
He said, “In the UK, those crimes include war crimes, genocide and torture. We trust the process to be done properly in the UK.”
On Friday, the Dominica High Court denied bail to Choksi who is facing a charge of illegal entry into the country, deeming him to be a flight risk.
Choksi is due back before the magistrates’ court today on that charge.
He remains under police custody as a patient at the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital where he is under observation for various ailments.