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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Interpol issues 3 Red Corner notices against Mehul Choksi's suspected kidnappers

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These moves were at the Antigua and Barbuda authorities’ request.

A statement issued by the police force of the island nation said: "Those Red Notices were approved (by a magistrate of the country Conliffe Clarke) and issued (by Interpol)."

The Interpol notices are a setback for Indian law enforcement and intelligence agencies, who accuse Choksi of defrauding the public sector Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore and want him for questioning in India.

Choksi denies the charge and insists his companies never defaulted on loans from the bank.

Choksi, who has apparently been a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda since 2017, complained that he was beaten up, blindfolded and forcibly taken on a boat from Antigua to Dominica, another island in the West Indies.

This complaint was prima facie upheld by an interim finding of the Antiguan police as well as by a Dominican court.

The charge made by Choksi was he was lured into a Hungarian woman’s flat in Antigua, following which two UK-based men of Indian descent took him to Dominica and handed him over to Dominican police.

Reportedly, Indian law enforcement officers arrived in Dominica on a leased Qatar Airways executive jet to secretly whisk him away to India; but were dramatically thwarted by a local radio presenter, Loftus Durand, breaking the news of Choksi’s illegal detention.

Meanwhile, the police commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda, Atlee Rodney, has sternly denied any collusion between his force and Choksi as suggested in an article circulated by an Indian news agency and carried by a section of Indian news media last week.

The piece seemingly quoted a blogger Kenneth Rijock (described as "a renowned financial crimes investigator"), who the wire report claimed "said that Choksi has been scheming to illegally extend the court process in Antigua, by paying bribes to government officials, including senior Antigua police official, Adonis Henry".

"Multiple witnesses report that Choksi and Inspector Henry have been meeting at least three times a day at Al Porto, a Jolly Harbour (an area in Antigua) restaurant reportedly owned by Choksi, wrote Rijock in his financial crime blob."

"Choksi not only reached out to Henry but also tried to influence Antigua magistrate Conliffe Clarke through illegal payments," it added.

Reacting to such reporting, Commissioner Rodney stated: "It is most unfortunate that Mr Kenneth Rijock, on his internet blog, made several false statements, concerning the Antigua and Barbuda Police Force in relation to Mr Mehul Choksi without ascertaining the facts.

"The entire blog is false with inadequate or no research of the facts and has a malicious purpose and ought not to have been posted."

The Antiguan police testified that only two meetings took place between Choksi and Inspector Henry.

"Both engagements occurred around August 2021 and June 2022 during an investigation… at Mr Choksi’s office… in the presence of his attorney." <br> <br>A media report in IMI, an internet media outlet, claimed Rijock received a four-year federal prison sentence for duping US tax authorities and that there are several libel cases against him.

As for Choksi attempting to influence Magistrate Clarke to delay court proceedings relating to India’s demand for his extradition, Antigua News Room, a media portal, produced a copy of a letter his attorneys have written to the Registrar of the High Court in Antigua.

The letter pointed out that Rijock’s article, as reported via a news agency, "has the clear and significant potential to undermine the justice system of Antigua and Barbuda".

Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s party was re-elected in a general election on Wednesday.

There was no comment from the government.

–Ajit Weekly News<br>ash/ksk/<br>

News Credits – I A N S

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