By Orville Williams
The wife of embattled businessman Mehul Choksi has hit out at Prime Minister Gaston Browne for his comments regarding the deportation of the Indian-born fugitive to his native land.
Browne has suggested that Choksi was “hiding” behind his Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship, rather than answering the accusations against him back in India, where he is still a citizen. He added that for that reason, he would support Choksi’s deportation directly to India, rather than a return to Antigua.
The prime minister also previously raised concerns about Choksi’s citizenship – awarded through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) in 2017 – going as far as notifying the man that he would be pushing for the revocation of his citizenship, on the grounds that he willfully concealed information pertinent to his CIP application.
That information refers to his alleged involvement in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
Speaking to India’s ‘World Is One News’ (WION) this week, Priti Choksi expressed her disappointment with Browne’s comments on her husband’s status, questioning the PM’s insistence on having him sent from Dominica to India, as opposed to Antigua.
“I believe that if the law is followed, he would be sent back to his country, which is Antigua. [Therefore] … we are deeply anguished by [the prime minister’s] comments, because [he] has said that, ‘do not let him come back to Antigua, because he will be protected by the Constitution and laws of Antigua’.
“Why would he be protected by the Constitution and laws if he was not a citizen of Antigua?” she queried.
Priti Choksi also spoke on her husband’s presence in Dominica, amid suggestions that he travelled to the country on his own accord. Those suggestions contradict the claims from Choksi’s legal team, that he was forcefully removed from Antigua and transported to the neighbouring island.
She told WION, “There was no reason for him to leave Antigua and Barbuda. He has two cases to answer here, both those cases are in court and there are stays on both of them … even if he loses the case, he has the option to go to the Supreme Courtof the Caribbean and the Privy Council.
“But there is no thought on him losing; that is how strong his case is. What would the reason be for him to leave a place where he is safe?”
The local authorities in Dominica were also criticised by Choksi’s wife, who questioned why a kidnapping investigation was not initiated, following the claims by her husband that he was abducted and brought to the island.
A team of Indian officials is reported to be in Dominica regarding Choksi’s immediate future, while the official spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the government would continue all efforts to return Choksi to the country.
Arindam Bagchi told a media briefing yesterday, that “he [Choksi] is currently in the custody of Dominica where some legal proceedings are underway [and] we will continue to ensure that he is brought back to India”.