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London: An Antigua Police interim report on the kidnapping of fugitive Indian-origin diamond merchant Mehul Choksi – kept under wraps for 11 months – is no longer secret. It was reportedly submitted to a court in Dominica, which is scheduled to pass final orders as early as Friday on the case of alleged illegal entry by Choksi, an Antiguan citizen, into the neighbouring Caribbean island state.
The police report says: “The further along this investigation progresses, the more the facts are aligning with Mr Choksi’s version of the events that led to his appearance in the state of Dominica.”
It goes on to say: ‘The plethora of real and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that a case of kidnapping with broad collusion among multiple conspirators exists.”
The report names five suspects; two of them – an Indian-origin man and a Hungarian woman – it ranks “at the top of the list of suspects”.
The report – which was submitted to the government of Antigua and Barbuda – in its recommendations sought permission from the country’s authorities to secure a warrant for the Hungarian woman ‘for conspiracy to kidnap’.
It also wants Interpol to be requested “to identify the location and possible return” of all five suspects to Antigua “to be interviewed”. The green light for this has yet to be granted by the government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Asked whether he knew about the case coming up for disposal, Dominica’s leader of opposition Lennox Linton said: ‘So I understand.’ He had publicly stated – when criminal proceedings were launched against Choksi in July 2021 – that the judge concerned should cease these and set the accused free.
Radio presenter and journalist Loftus Durand – who broke the story of Choksi’s clandestine arrest and detention in Dominica, thereby forcing the island state court to intervene and thwart the alleged plan to rendition Choksi to India – told this reporter: “I am hearing from the grapevine that the state (of Dominica) is basically trying to do away with the matter. So I won’t be surprised if the prosecutor will just decide that they are no longer interested in pursuing the matter.”
Choksi and his family chose not to comment on the ongoing judicial process. Choksi was released on bail in July 2021 and returned home to Antigua.
The 19-page Antigua Police report dated June 25, 2021 confirms the claims made by Choksi and his wife Priti at the time of Choksi’s disappearance from Antigua on May 25, 2021. It also virtually dittos the complaint filed by London barrister Michael Polak in the matter on behalf of Choksi to London’s Metropolitan Police, or Scotland Yard, and the National Crime Agency in Britain, because the suspects were all seemingly based in the United Kingdom.
Questions that remain unanswered are the motive behind the alleged crime and whether the abductors were acting on their own or had a bigger entity behind them. This can only be clarified by further inquiry, either by the Antigua Police or British investigators or both. Choksi himself has alleged, according to the Antigua Observer, that the persons who abducted him were “operatives of the government of India,” a charge New Delhi rejects.
The Antigua Police report, a copy of which is in this reporter’s possession, is based on investigations into hotel and villa bookings and car rentals made by the persons suspected to have kidnapped and tortured Choksi, as well as evidence gathered from CCTV recordings of the movements of the suspects in the island, records of taxis hired while they were in the country and the tracking of two yachts said to have been used to transport Choksi from Antigua to Dominica.
About the Indian-origin man ranked at the top of the list of suspects, the police report states that he checked in to Cocobay Hotel and ‘initially reported that he was alone but the hotel staff reported subsequently seeing him in the company of a female’ – identified as the other top suspect.
“At 19:43” on May 23, 2021 – the day Choksi went missing – the report states that the two top suspects and one other – a Briton from Essex in England – “left Antigua on an Executive Air charter flight (8P-EAL) and travelled to Dominica”. Documentary evidence in support of this is included in the report.
The report suggests a yacht named Calliope of Arne was the main boat that carried Choksi from Antiguan waters to Dominica – a distance of 188 kilometres. It says:
“On 23/5/21 Calliope of Arne cleared immigration at 09:20hrs but never left because later that afternoon a yachtsman reported seeing about three or four ‘mean looking characters’ aboard the Calliope of Arne still anchored in the harbor. At about 5:00 PM he saw the mast being hoisted slowly which raised his suspicion. After hoisting the mast, the boat sailed further out and began tracking from north to south and south to north continuously until after dusk when it was no longer visible. The witness reports that he did not see the ship the following day or ever since.”
The police report noted that when the yacht cleared immigration, it listed two suspects of Indian extraction ‘as passengers’. One was a British citizen; the other an Indian national. Both, according to their papers, were from Birmingham in England.
The Antigua Police report recorded:
“On 27th May 2021 Mrs Choksi spoke to her husband via telephone in Dominica and according to her, he reported that he was lured to meet (the Hungarian woman suspect) at a Villa #407F on North Finger in Jolly Harbour (in Antigua) with the intention of going to dinner. On arrival at the Villa he was pounced upon by about ten men of Indian and local descent. A hood was placed over his head after he was tied to a wheelchair and gagged and his phone and jewelry taken away. He was then beaten, tased and tortured before being wheeled unto a small boat docked at the back of the villa and taken out where he was transferred to Calliope of Arne. He was continually tortured and electrocuted (sic) along the journey which took him to Dominica on Monday 24th May 2021. On arrival at Portsmouth harbor [in Dominica], a Coast Guard vessel came and he was taken to shore where there were high ranking police officers awaiting who took him into custody. He was accused of entering the country illegally.”
The report then reveals: “On Tuesday 1st June 2021 inquiries led investigators to Villa #407F (Jolly Harbour) which was rented by (the Hungarian woman suspect) from 18th-24th May 2021. On arrival the villa was unoccupied and a forensic search uncovered small amounts of blood spatter and smudges on the living room floor and dining table along with a broken ceramic ornament on the floor indicating a possible struggle.’ Also found was the Hungarian woman suspect’s ‘travel itinerary’.