By Shermain Bique-Charles
Indian diamantaire Mehul Choksi is exploring his legal options after an online newspaper in St Kitts and Nevis claimed that he had met with the Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, to discuss campaign financing for the opposition party.
The article published in SKN News earlier this week alleged that Choksi had promised Lovell election funding in exchange for helping him avoid criminal charges in India which has been seeking his extradition.
The article further alleged that Choksi and Lovell met in an Italian restaurant in Antigua over the weekend and that the owner of the restaurant, named by SKN as ‘Richard Parker’, revealed that the two talked about the deal, with Lovell apparently promising safety and immunity if he was successful in his bid to become the country’s Prime Minister.
However, Choksi’s spokesperson, James Lynch, who spoke to Observer from the UK, said the SKN News report was entirely false.
“There is no substance at all. Mr Choksi has not met with Lovell in any Italian restaurant. I spoke to the family. There was no meeting. What has been published is entirely incorrect and there is no truth to it at all,” he said.
Lynch said, while Choksi may be considering his legal options on this matter, the businessman is already entangled in several legal battles relating to his apparent abduction to Dominica last year.
“Our client is not happy he is being portrayed in this way. He is already embroiled in legal disputes at this moment … but he continues to pursue legal avenues available to him,” Lynch added.
Lynch believes the entire “fabricated” story — which the UPP has also vehemently denied — may be “point scoring on an electoral basis ahead of the elections expected later this year”.
In fact, on Thursday, Lovell told Observer that he is seeking a retraction from SKN News.
In May last year, Prime Minister Gaston Browne accused the UPP of publicly supporting Choksi in order to attract campaign funding.
“After mischievously accusing my administration of harbouring Mehul Choksi, who has an Interpol Red Notice, they are now seeking to sanitise this fugitive to get campaign funding,” PM Browne said.
On May 23 2021, the Indian businessman was reported missing from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been residing since he became a citizen under the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme in 2018.
Choksi was later found in neighbouring Dominica and charged for entering that country illegally.
His lawyers, however, alleged that he was kidnapped from his Jolly Harbour home in Antigua and taken to Dominica via boat.
Due to poor health, Choksi was later released on bail and allowed to return to Antigua for treatment.
According to the conditions of his bail, he is expected to return to Dominica to answer to the charges once he is medically fit, a requirement that his family said may never be met, since his heath continues to deteriorate.
Choksi, the owner of retail jewellery firm Gitanjali Group, is wanted by Indian authorities in relation to a US$2 billion bank scam.