India

Political football in the Caribbean over Mehul Choksi drama – Times of India

MUMBAI: L’affaire Mehul Choksi has become a major political hot potato in the Caribbean with the region’s opposition parties and leaders alleging complicity of the Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda governments in the fugitive diamantaire’s alleged abduction.
However, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has dismissed suggestions of his government’s involvement in the kidnapping.
“The presence of Indian-born Mehul Choksi in Dominica following allegations that he was kidnapped in Antigua, beaten, ferried to Dominica and taken into the country against his will, highlights once again the extent to which departments of government are involved in organized crime under the influence and/or direction of the regime of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit,” Lennox Linton, the leader of the opposition in the Dominica’s House of Assembly said in a statement given to TOI on Monday night.
He even suspected the Indian government’s role in the whole matter.
Alleging “obvious collaboration” between governments of Dominica, Antigua and India, the parliamentary leader said the issue is undermining the judiciary in the eastern Caribbean.
He demanded a probe into the violations of the law by the police, immigration and customs officials “who openly allowed to 1) facilitate the operators of the St Lucia based schooner; and 2) detain Choksi on allegations of illegal entry.”
He further demanded that the role of the ministers (of Dominica) in the unlawful transfer of Choksi to Dominica be probed.
Some of the alleged discrepancies in the Choksi’s emergence in Dominica were that the St Lucia based-yacht in which Choksi was transported to Dominica on May 23 declared three crew members and two Indian passengers to the authorities on departure from Antigua. Choksi’s name was not included.
Choksi later arrived in Dominica with no passport. While the two Indian passengers were taken for quarantine, Choksi was detained only to be quarantined five days later, on May 28.
Meanwhile, Browne ruled out his government’s involvement in the way Choksi was captured in Dominica.
“I can say categorically that neither we were involved nor had knowledge of the alleged abduction. If we were to be, we would have invited the Indian government to send a plane here. We would have picked him and repatriated him even though that would have been against his constitutional rights.
“I am not saying that but I want to say it would have been a safer option to violate the constitutional rights here and repatriate him to India rather than abducting him,” the PM Browne said in an interview on Monday.
He added that he had never met Choksi personally.
He also ruled out suggestions of pressure from India and declared that his party never received any political funding from the Indian businessman.
However, hours later, Vere Bird III, a member of the island’s first political family which gave the nation two prime ministers (Vere Bird and Lester Bird), said that he had seen the two in Jolly Beach (in Antigua) in October 2020.

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