Concerns raised about the security of marine borders following Choksi incident

The Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) Coast Guard is primarily tasked with monitoring and securing the country’s marine borders.
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By Orville Williams

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Amid the furore surrounding embattled businessman Mehul Choksi, the government has admitted that the susceptibility of the country’s borders to unscrupulous marine traffic is a concern for national security.

According to reports, Choksi – who is wanted by the authorities in his native India to answer criminal allegations – was illegally transported from Antigua, the Jolly Harbor area to be specific, to Dominica where he is now being held in police custody.

There is much speculation about how he could manage to leave the country undetected, and an investigation is now underway on both islands, to determine the details of his departure and subsequent arrival in Dominica.

Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, said yesterday that the possibility of these activities is not lost on the local authorities, with more to be done to tighten the reins on movement in and out.

“From a national security standpoint and in terms of how we deal with seaward craft coming into our borders – both here and any of our offshore islands and Barbuda – it is a matter for further consideration, in terms of the technology that’s available and the resources that we have to do it.

“Yes, the borders continue to be a risk, not only for that type of event where persons could abscond, but of course for the incursion of contraband and other such undesirable effects.”

Speaking on the current capacity of the authorities to monitor marine traffic, Nicholas pointed to the requirements for operating in Antigua and Barbuda’s waters and how those requirements could play a role in aiding investigations into suspicious activity.

“Many craft [that] ply their trade in these waters have to be given a license and part of the licensing regime means that they have to be able to carry GPS equipment onboard, in order to be given such licenses.

“So, the whole question of how we deal with that particular environment – what technologies we’d use to be able to track and detect [both] inward and outward movement is a matter for law enforcement and for our Coast Guard team”, Nicholas added.

The Minister also suggested that this GPS technology could be used by the authorities to determine the details of Choksi’s departure from the island.

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