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Antigua relies solely on Choksi’s torture allegations to block extradition to India

NewsAntigua relies solely on Choksi’s torture allegations to block extradition to India

NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s effort to bring back fugitive Mehul Choksi has become tougher with the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda ordering a full investigation into the allegations made by Choksi that he was kidnapped from Antigua illegally by Indian operatives for being extradited to India.
The said judgement, which was delivered on 3 March, has been accessed by The Sunday Guardian. It was delivered about four months after the Interpol deleted Choksi’s name from the Most Wanted List on 12 October 2022, a development that was kept under wraps by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) until the media, including this newspaper, reported it. Meanwhile, on Friday, the high court of Antigua and Barbuda ruled in Choksi’s favour, saying that he could not be removed from that country.
As per the 21-page judgment of 3 March, accessed by The Sunday Guardian, Justice Marissa Robertson, while ruling in favour of Choksi’s plea, stated, “In the circumstances of this case the claimant (Choksi) contends that he was subjected to ill-treatment. The claimant represents that he was assaulted, choked, strangled, restrained, beaten, punched about the head and body; that he was tasered; threatened with a kitchen knife and subjected to death threats; that he was tied with a rope to a wheelchair; that he was gagged and blindfolded; that he was told that his family would be in jeopardy; he was ill-treated to the extent that he lost consciousness. The claimant presents photographs and medical records to substantiate the allegations made in the claim.”
“It is also noted that the absence of the claimant from the jurisdiction and his subsequent location in the Commonwealth of Dominica was widely reported. The claimant’s account that he was forcibly removed from the jurisdiction has been, at least initially, supported by the findings in one of the police reports,” the judge said.
The police reports that she referred to in her judgment were copies of investigative reports that were prepared by the Antigua police on 4 June and 21 June 2021 in the alleged abduction case of Choksi.
The operative part of the said police report reads, “The further along this investigation progresses the more the facts are aligning with Mr Choksi’s unofficial version of the events that led to his appearance in the State of Dominica. The plethora of real and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that a case of kidnapping with broad collusion among multiple conspirators exists. … ranks at the top of the list of persons of interest.”
It further states, “As we endeavor to continue this investigation and with a view to appreciate and unravel the gravity of this crime the investigating team is proposing the following recommendations and official request for assistance ultimately with the aim of laying charges: (1) Facilitation for investigators to travel to Dominica to interview and possibly record witness statements from Mehul Choksi, border agents and local investigators and gather other documentary evidence. (2) Facilitation for investigators to travel to St. Lucia to interview the tour operators and original crew of both vessels and gather documentary evidence. (3) Permission to secure Warrant in the First Instance for Barbara Jarabik for Conspiracy to Kidnap.”
Sources aware of the matter said that with the court mandating an inquiry into the whole matter, coupled with the initial police report and the subsequent decision of the Interpol to remove Choksi’s name from the Most Wanted list, the window of opportunity to extradite him to India as long as he was alive was “very narrow”.
The strong ground that Choksi is on can be gauged from the fact that while the Interpol removed his name from the most wanted List in October 2022, it reportedly added the name of the three individuals who took part in his alleged abduction. One of the said individuals was apparently arrested from Dubai in February this year on the basis of the Interpol notice. At the time of filing of this report, none of the three individuals named by Choksi was on the Interpol’s most wanted list.

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