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Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that he is not aware of any "conclusive evidence" of fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi's abduction from his country.

"I'm not aware of evidence, but there's information in the public domain that Mehul Choksi was abducted," said the PM while responding to questions of opposition MP in the parliament.

Browne was asked whether the Scotland Yard or any other investigative body found any evidence that Choksi was taken to Dominica by "involuntary means".

"I'm aware that law enforcement here would have done some research, and perhaps may have some individuals of interests, but in so far as evidence is concerned, I am not aware that there is any such conclusive evidence," he said.

"I am not aware that the sea vessel would have breached the security of the state, my understanding is that the vessel ostensibly that was utilised to abduct MC came here legally," Browne added while answering a query related to the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda borders.

He also said that the royal Antigua and Barbuda police force issued the yellow notice to Interpol in the first instance to try and locate Mehul Choksi when he was reported missing.

"It's well known that throughout the Caribbean region, we have relatively porous borders because of all of the different keys and the different beaches, and evidently we do not have enough resources including manpower," he said.

"It is an area that we continue to struggle with, we have been assisted by the US government and other external agencies to help us to build capacity in that area. But admittedly, it is one of the weak areas in which the countries in the Caribbean, you know, they all have porous borders," he added.

Charges on Choksi

Choksi went missing from Antigua on 23 May and was caught in Dominica. He was charged with illegal entry into Dominica by police after he allegedly fled Antigua and Barbuda in a possible attempt to avoid extradition to India.

His lawyers have claimed that he was kidnapped and didn't go to Dominica of his own free will.

The businessman is wanted in India for 13,500 crore bank fraud in Punjab National Bank.

Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi had fled India in the first week of January 2018, weeks before the PNB scam rocked the Indian banking industry.

The duo allegedly bribed officials of the state-run bank to get Letters of Undertaking (LoU) on the basis of which they availed loans from overseas banks that remained unpaid.

The allegedly corrupt bank officials did not enter these LoUs in the core banking software of PNB, thus evading scrutiny. The non-payment of these LoUs or bank guarantees worth 13,500 crore resulted in default and became a liability on the bank.

India's efforts

The ministry of external affairs has said that Indian authorities are making all efforts to ensure early deportation of the fugitive from Dominica.

"Legal proceedings are underway. The government of India is actively engaged with the Dominican government to seek the early deportation of Mehul Choksi to face justice in our country," said MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

He added that the criminal charges faced by the diamantaire and facts relating to his continued Indian citizenship have been brought to the attention of Dominican authorities.


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