A fugitive Indian-born businessman has won the first round of a court battle to prove that a UK-based group including a younger woman was part of an Indian intelligence service plot to lure him to a Caribbean villa to be kidnapped and extradited to his home country.
The high court of Antigua and Barbuda has found that Mehul Choksi has an “arguable” case in relation to his civil claim against the country’s attorney general and chief of police over the response to his alleged abduction and illegal rendition to Dominica in May 2021.
A submission from Choksi’s lawyers details an alleged conspiracy in which he is said to have been subjected to “inhuman or degrading treatment” after his alleged kidnapping in Antigua. It is claimed that the elaborate plot to steal him away had been carefully prepared in collusion with the Indian state.
Should it go to trial, the case could open up to scrutiny the world of secret service operations and the alleged role of experienced individuals in the UK.
Choksi, 64, is seeking an admission from the Antiguan police that they failed to properly look into the alleged crime and a declaration that they will now relaunch a “speedy and effective” investigation.
Antigua’s attorney general and police commissioner had sought to have the claim struck out as “vexatious”. But the high court said the defendants had not shown the case to be “unsustainable”. It ordered the defendants to file a defence and awarded Choksi 75% of his costs.
According to the businessman’s affidavit, Choksi, who is wanted on fraud and money laundering charges in India, was invited to a villa near his luxury home in the Antiguan resort of Jolly Harbour in May 2021. A separate police report identified the person who invited Choksi as a 33-year-old woman.
Immediately after arriving, it is alleged, he was surrounded by a group of men who claimed to be police officers and repeatedly punched to his head, arm, chest and leg, leaving him covered in cuts and bruises.
Choksi alleges that a stun gun was discharged into his face and other exposed areas of skin, causing burns, and he was threatened with a kitchen knife.
As the beating continued, he was gagged, forced into a wheelchair and tied to its frame, and a mask was placed over his head, it is claimed.
His assailants are said to have pushed him on to a chartered yacht registered in St Lucia, which then set sail for Dominica, arriving about 15 hours later.
Choksi’s lawyers’ submission states that he endured violent mistreatment throughout the voyage and was made to listen to a man on a mobile phone who purported to be in charge of the operation to have him deported to India.
He claims in his submission that he was informed that the plot was orchestrated by the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s foreign intelligence agency.
Further details appear in a police report dated 25 June 2021 that has been referenced in the court’s judgment. In it, the police wrote that a “plethora of real and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that a case of kidnapping with broad collusion among multiple conspirators exist”, a point highlighted by the court.
The police report also contains a copy of a flight manifest for a private jet that flew from Antigua to Dominica immediately after the abduction, and names a man travelling on a diplomatic passport, a 68-year-old British citizen from Essex and a 33-year-old Hungarian woman registered on Companies House at an address in London as being involved in the plot. They all deny involvement.
In January, a press release issued on behalf of the Antigua and Barbuda commissioner of police indicated that a warrant had been secured requesting that Interpol issue a red notice against three of those named.
The British barrister Michael Polak, the director of Justice Abroad, which is representing Choksi, said: “The evidence that Mr Choksi was kidnapped from Antigua and tortured during his unlawful rendition to Dominica is clear. It has been a long road to get to this point, and we continue to fight to secure justice for Mr Choksi.”
Oliver Laurence, the managing partner of I-OnAsia, which is leading investigations into Choksi’s alleged kidnapping on behalf of his family, said a dossier of material gathered over the last year had been handed to the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan police.
“We have spoken to several key witnesses who have bravely come forward to give us information which has led us to where we are today,” he said. “We have examined everything, from flight manifests to hotel documents, which has painted a disturbing picture.”
Article Published by the Guardian on the 7th May 2023 – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/06/businessman-mehul-choksi-who-alleges-indian-kidnap-plot-wins-antiguan-court-ruling
A copy of this judgement handed down by the Antiguan High Court can be found here.