St John’s: The news of the disappearance of Indian business Mehul Choksi who had fled Antigua and Barbuda in May 2021 fearing extradition to India created a cloud of confusion as multiple theories surfaced during the event.
A few days later, the businessman who reportedly went missing was found in Dominica circulating several narratives of the story such as the framing of the kidnapping allegations against three individuals, fleeing to Cuba, and portrayal of himself as a victim of human rights violation.
Renowned money laundering expert Kenneth Rijock was tasked with investigating and analyzing the available information to provide an accurate account of the events surrounding the disappearance of Mehul Choksi. This article aims to provide a summary of the report presented by Kenneth Rijock.
Take away points from the investigation –
- Kenneth Rijock kept his mind open and investigated keeping all the possibilities- actual kidnapping of Mehul Choksi, faking kidnapping by Mehul Choksi, role of Indian and Antiguan authorities, role of Barbara Jarabik, Gurmit Singh, and Gurjit Bhandal.
- He relied on both oral as well as documentary evidences available to discredit some of the possible theories and to come up with his final conclusion. iii) The same was presented in a very clear manner. The evidence of all the points he had concluded have been clearly mentioned in the report.
3. It is important to note that the information presented in this article has been thoroughly researched and verified by reliable sources. The Associates Times has conducted extensive fact-checking and consulted with relevant authorities, including immigration and port authorities, to ensure the accuracy of the information provided.
4. It is important to note that among all Caribbean countries, Antigua and Barbuda is the only country that currently has an extradition treaty with India. This means that if the Indian government wishes to extradite Mehul Choksi to face charges in their country, they would need to do so through the legal system in Antigua and Barbuda. There is no other country that has an extradition treaty with India in the region currently. This fact has raised concerns among some that why would Indian government plans to take away Choksi to another country.
The extradition treaty between India and Antigua came into force in 2001. The treaty allows for the extradition of individuals who have been accused or convicted of a range of offenses, including terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption.
Despite the extradition treaty, there has been some speculation that Choksi may be taken to another country for trial. However, given that there is no other country with an extradition treaty in the region, this is unlikely. The Antiguan government has been cooperating with Indian authorities and has stated that it will not interfere in the legal process.
5. According to the reports, the opposition party of Antigua and Barbuda has been entirely funded by Mehul Choksi in the recently held elections in the country. He had also bribed the Attorney General of the island nation who worked and spoke in the favour of the fugitive businessman.
6. Along with that, Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney has denied all claims of any misconduct in the case of Mehul Choksi on the part of a senior police officer. The Commissioner made it clear that the Police Force has no interest in assisting Choksi in avoiding extradition from Antigua and Barbuda as alleged by Media, and, in any event, has no power to do so.
7. It is worth mentioning that Magistrate Conliffe Clarke is currently handling the missing case of Mehul Choksi and there are also some reports in the media that Choksi also tried to reach out to the judge. However, there is no credible information to back this statement.
8. The Economic Times reported that case investigation officer, Inspector Adonis Henry is accused of taking bribes from Mehul Choksi to prepare an investigation report which would aid him to fight an illegal entry case in Dominica. Media also reported that Attorney General, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin also supported Choksi in exchange for monetary benefits.
About Kenneth Rijock: – He has more than 30 years experience in the field of money laundering, as a practicing laundryman, financial compliance consultant, and trainer/lecturer to law and intelligence agencies including the RCMP. He has testified three times before US Congress committees.
- Purpose of the investigative report: – The report will investigate and analyze available information to determine what happened to Choksi and provide an accurate account of the events surrounding his disappearance.
- Background of Mehul Choksi:- Mehul Choksi is an Indian businessman who was owner of Geetanjali Group, a retain jewellery company with over 4000 stores in India. In 2018 when he was accused of fraud and money laundering in India and subsequently fled the country. He fled to Antigua and Barbuda and applied for citizenship, which he was granted in November 2018. In May 2021, it was reported that Choksi had gone missing from Antigua.
Different versions of disappearance: –
- As per Mehul Choksi, he was apprehended from Antigua and the following individuals were involved in the kidnapping – Barbara Jarabik, Gurmit Singh, and Gurjit Bhandal. The role of Indian and Antiguan authorities is also highly suspected.
- ii) As per another version, Mehul Choksi faked his kidnapping since he was apprehensive over extradition from Antigua to India and was trying to flee Antigua.
- iii) He might have wanted to flee from Antiguan authorities. He was found and arrested in Dominica after a few days
. Types of evidence gathered during the investigation: –
- Oral:-Statements made by Mehul Choksi, persons he had accused of his kidnapping- Barbara Jarabik, Gurmit Singh, and Gurjit Bhandal.
- Documentary: – The leaked information from the police department of Jamaicans who transported Choksi, and the police report on the official investigation, some documents from sources.
Report divided into Six Chapters:-
- Version of Mehul Choksi – On 23rd May 2021, he went to meet his friend Barbara Jarabik at her home in Antigua, where he was kidnapped by 8 to 10 people who looked like Antiguan Police Officers. They transported him to a boat on which two Indians Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh were present. They made him speak to an Indian Official who told him that he will send him (Choksi) back to India. Then they took him to Dominica and handed him over to the Police.
2. Details of the two British Indians Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh, the Hungarian tourist friend Barbara Jarabik– As per statements of Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh they had no idea who Mehul Choksi was and have no relation with any Indian authority they had gone from UK to Caribbean for sailing purposes and had hired a boat from Antigua to Dominica. There are documents regarding their arrival in Antigua, immigration check on the way from Antigua to Dominica, which support their version. During Customs and Immigration clearance the boat was thoroughly inspected and there were five persons on boat-03 crew and 02 guests. There is a statement of the Captain of the boat that they took mentioning that there were five people on the boat- three crew and two guests. The details and the timings mentioned by him support the version of the two British Indians. Barbara Jarabik states that she did not even know the real name of Mehul Choksi and knew him as Raj. He approached her and showed interest in coming closer to her. She denied anything to do with his kidnapping or any contract with any agencies.
3. Jamaican Transporters – As per leaked documents from Police Department two Jamaican nationals had a meeting with Mehul Choksi in April, 2021, that they would transport Choksi to Cuba in lieu of money. On 18th May, 2021 date of travel was fixed as 24th May, 2021. However, on 23rd May, 2021, Mehul Choksi asked them to come on 23rd itself, on which the Jamaican crew agreed for 24th May, 2021 early morning. As per the report, Choksi did this change since Barbara Jarabik changed her plan of leaving Antigua from 24th to 23rd May, 2021. He portrayed as he was kidnapped at her house with her connivance, whereas in reality he was faking the kidnapping so that he can go with the Jamaican Transporters to Cuba willingly in their boat. However, enroute Cuba, he received a call and asked the Jamaicans to drop him in Dominica instead of Cuba and inform the Dominica Police.
4. Police Investigation Report- As per the initial investigation by Antigua Police, they supported the version of the kidnapping of Mehul Choksi with Barbara Jarabik, Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh as persons of interest.
5. Statements by Antigua Prime Minister and later statements by Police – They said there is no evidence to support the theory of kidnapping and forceful abduction.
6. Findings- Contradictions in version of Mehul Choksi –
a) No signs of breakage of doors were found in the house where Mehul was allegedly kidnapped (surveyed both doors, front and back).
b) Change of statements by Mehul Choksi regarding his 23rd May, 2021 evening plan.
c) Change of statements by Mehul Choksi regarding the identity of his kidnappers.
d) As per Mehul Choksi’s allegation he was kidnapped by Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh and taken in a boat. However, statements of Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh, and the Captain of their boat, documents regarding immigrating in Antigua and Dominica do not support Choksi’s version at all.
e) Why would Barbara Jarabik plan kidnapping at her own house, that also around 0500 PM.
f) Change of plan from 24th May, 2021 to 23rd May, 2021 by Mehul Choksi since Barbara Jarabik changed her plan to leave Antigua from 24th May, 2021 to 23rd
g) Police authority intentionally ignored some vital evidence and witnesses.
The report findings show that Mehul Choksi had become apprehensive that India might be able to extradite him from Antigua.
The findings show that to escape the Indian authorities, he decided to go to a country that had no extradition treaty with India. The plan was to abscond, without telling anyone and make it appear like a missing case. So, he honey-trapped Barbara Jarabik by gifting jewellery and other attempts to gather her complete information to put missing blame on someone.
The investigation also revealed that while Mehul Choksi and his transporters were en route to Cuba, he received a satellite call informing him that Cuba is no longer a secure location and that he should reconsider his decision due to potential threats. After the change in plans, Mehul Choksi requested his carriers to relocate the boat to Dominica, believing that the entire plot of “disappearing” being modified to “kidnapping” would aid his extradition case on the grounds of human rights, so preventing his extradition to India. All the tourists involved/accused including Barbara Jarabik, Gurjit Bhandal and Gurmit Singh appears actual tourists who are victims of the MASTERPLAN of Choksi.
If Mehul Choksi was kidnapped or abducted by the Indian agencies, it is unlikely for them take him to Dominica where extradition is even more difficult. In that scenario, he would have been taken to a state/country with close diplomatic relations to India or international airport for direct transportation to India. It is noteworthy that the Indian law enforcement authorities only arrived in Dominica seven days after Mehul Choksi went missing, suggesting that if the Indian state had been involved in his disappearance, he would have been returned to India by now. This absence of any known motive for kidnapping and the lack of any intervention from the Indian state lead to the conclusion that the Indian state was not involved in Choksi’s disappearance.