Fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi alleges his abduction was outsourced to British mercenaries
The fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi tells Ashis Ray that an unanticipated radio broadcast on his abduction foiled plans to fly him back to India in May. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges
The Indian-origin diamond merchant Mehul Choksi is accused by Indian law enforcement bodies of defrauding Punjab National Bank; and has been declared a fugitive from justice. His assets in India were seized and sold as part of a recovery process. He is still wanted in India for questioning. The Government of India has been pursuing his extradition from Antigua. However, he mysteriously disappeared from this Caribbean island on 23 May, only to be discovered a few days later 117 miles away in Dominica. In an online interview he tells Ashis Ray how he was abducted to Dominica on the night of 24 May and why he believes the task was outsourced to professionals.
Mehul Choksi: There were a few police waiting for me to take me. I was taken to the end of a marina and asked to sit and one gentleman in a grey suit came to me. He was wearing a grey sweat suit, a tall gentleman and polite gentleman. He said he’s the chief of police; and he said he’s here because I was caught because of the red alert red notice (of Interpol) and I would be arrested because of that. It took about 10-15 minutes. Then they took me (where) there were a few police cars. It was like a bus, you could see they were waiting for me and I was handed over to one man called Sergeant Maxime. I was in the middle seat, I was handcuffed before entering; and on the two sides of me, one side was Sergeant Maxime and on the other side another police came; in the back and front there were police.
It took a long time through the mountains. It took about one hour to reach. There was a huge gate. They opened gate and the car went in. And I was told this was the Roseau (capital of Dominica) police station.
The court officially announced that ‘you are an illegal immigrant and you are arrested for that, you will be in remand.’ The second remand, when I went, there was a big argument, they (the prosecution lawyers) started saying I should be taken to jail, the custody should change from police to jail custody. My lawyers felt my health is not good, ‘give me some days’ (to the judge). There would be 2-3 Indians sitting at the court proceeding. I was told they had a watching brief, but everything for the lawyer for the opposition (prosecution) was conducted by these Indian people. They started presenting that there was the highest red corner notice against me and I am a criminal. Everything was overpowered by these guys.
Ashis Ray: You mean the Indian people? They were sitting in the court and briefing the lawyers?
MC: Briefing the lawyers. The lawyers were speaking their language. My lawyers said they are applying for bail. They also raised the matter of examining the opposition (prosecution for allegedly not telling the truth).
(On being flown to India) I was told a plane of Qatar Airways had arrived and there were about 7-8 people who had come from India, with lots of papers and everything. I was given the impression this plane was to arrive on the 25th (of May) and it came too late.
The whole plan was to take me underground (secretly) and if the radio operator (presenter Loftus Durand) didn’t speak about me on Wednesday (26 May) the plan was that I would be put on the plane and taken back. There were many stories going around: the plane arrived late because, the plane was already in Doha or Dubai, and it went back to Delhi, it came back from Madrid because the cash was not there to be given. All these kind of rumours. The cash to be given to both the countries, and this was not there.
AR: When you say cash for both the countries, what do you mean?
MC: The term was used as a bribe, all these things, I do not know…..
AR: You mean bribes to Dominica and Antigua?
MC: That’s correct, that’s correct, people were talking about it.
AR: That India had given or was going to give bribes to these two countries?
MC: That’s correct, that’s correct. And that these two countries were asking for cash, the amount was five million, then the amount went to 25, all these talks were going on.
AR: Where were you hearing these rumours?
MC: In the hospital. In the hospital my lawyers would brief me saying these are the talks going on outside.
(About escaping, not being kidnapped) Why would I go out in my jogging kind of a clothes, in my tennis shoes, one purse and nothing else and in the purse also there was 1,500 EC (Eastern Caribbean dollars or equivalent to US$555)? All my credit cards were taken.
(About being honey-trapped) Then there was news about a honey-trap. They pulled back the news, because a honey-trap would make them kidnappers at the end of the day.
AR: The Government of India appears to have serious charges against you; and they say that you are still an Indian citizen and therefore they want you back in India to face justice. What is your answer to these claims by the Indian government?
MC: I know myself very well that I was a very reputed company; and 46 years in business. My company is 51 years old. I was one of the leading companies in India. Before 2018, I was a very reputed company. Even in December (2017) I was invited to Delhi to give a lecture on the gem and jewellery trade. The government knew I was helping to transit from a polishing business to jewellery and much more of a value added business. So, Gitanjali was a very, very respected company.
In the last three years due to the army of trolling, they brought me down from a very good company to a very bad boy. All the charges are completely fake.