The drama surrounding fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi's Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case continues. Choksi has named a mysterious woman, Barbara Jabarica, whom he claims imprisoned him and assisted in his subsequent kidnapping.
Choksi has been in Dominica's judicial custody since May 24, accused of illegally entering the nation. His arrest in Dominica, a Caribbean country, has revealed what appears to be an Indian operation. At least, that's what Choksi's legal team and family members seem to be implying in their charges regarding the circumstances of his arrival and incarceration in the Dominican court, where he remains in judicial custody awaiting deportation to India.
Mehul Choksi was born on May 5, 1959, in Mumbai, India. He attended Gujarat's G D Modi College in Palanpur. Choksi began his career in the gem and jewelry industry in 1975. In 1985, he succeeded his father, Chinubhai Choksi, as the CEO of Gitanjali Gems. The firm's focus at the time was rough and polished diamonds.
He has two girls and a son. One of his daughters is married to Akash Mehta, a diamond trader in Antwerp.
He is also Nirav Modi's maternal uncle. Additionally, Chetan Chinubhai Choksi, Choksi's younger brother, owned the Antwerp-based diamond firm Diminco NV. The company defaulted on a $25.8 million loan to an ICICI Bank subsidiary.
Scam at PNB
In March 2018, a special PMLA court issued nonbailable warrants for Mehul Choksi and his nephews Nirav and Neeshal Modi. They were accused of conspiring with officials from PNB Bank to cheat the bank of approximately Rs 14,000 crore. The fraud is said to be the largest in the history of Indian banking. Fake Letters of Undertaking (LoU) were issued by PNB Bank staff at the Brady House branch in Fort, Mumbai.
The Letters of Understanding were signed in favor of Indian bank branches for the import of pearls for a duration of one year, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowing a total time period of 90 days from the date of shipping.
The recommendations were disregarded by the Indian bank's abroad offices. They failed to provide any documents or information with PNB that had been made accessible to them by the business when they applied for loans.
Why did Choksi leave India in the first place?
Mehul Choksi, has been a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda since 2017. He departed India moments before the CBI implicated him in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB loan scam case in January 2018. He's been living in Antigua since then, despite the fact that Indian officials had an Interpol Red Notice issued against him and an extradition request filed to Antigua. Several cases have been filed against him, and his assets have been seized in the number of thousands of crores of rupees.
Choksi told the high court that he left India for medical treatment, not to escape facing charges in the case. He stated that he will return to India once he was medically cleared to go.
What has happened with Choksi now?
Choksi, the businessman, has been missing from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has lived since early 2018. He was believed to have escaped to neighboring Dominica on a boat en route to Cuba, according to investigators.
Mehul Choksi's family filed a missing person report with Antigua police on May 23. Dominica police announced two days later, on May 25, that he had been arrested for illegally entering the island. Choksi's legal team filed a Habeas Corpus case in Dominican court the next day. They are claiming that Choksi had not gone missing but had been kidnapped.
Choksi, who is 62 years old, is said to have been photographed in Dominica with a red swollen eye and bruises on his hands.
A Bombardier Global 5000 Qatar Executive corporate jet landed at Dominica's Douglas Charles Airport. The plane's publicly available logs indicated that it arrived in Delhi from Doha on May 27 in the afternoon and subsequently flew to Dominica. According to public flight data, the private plane hired by India to bring back fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi from Dominica left the Caribbean island country after nearly seven days.
Sources in the Indian security establishment verified this event, adding that a team of officials, including those from the CBI and the Ministry of External Affairs, had left for Dominica to bring Choksi back.
Involvement of Indian officials
Choksi claimed in his five-page suit that he was kidnapped and brought to Dominica for an interview with a "high-ranking Indian official." When Choksi was transferred from a small to a larger boat, he claims to have met "Indian agents."
Choksi's deportation to India has been secured by an Indian team of eight officials, including members of the CBI and the Ministry of External Affairs. On May 28, a private airplane is believed to have arrived in Dominica to transport him back to India.
Choksi was cited as stating, "I could see two Indians on board and three persons of Caribbean descent. The Indian men seemed highly experienced mercenaries or contractors hired specially for this purpose. They told me they had been watching me for over a year. Another man asked me about my finances and off-shore accounts. They warned me of dire consequences if I did not cooperate," after being forced to speak with one Narinder Singh, who claimed to be in charge of the matter, according to NDTV.
Indian will continue to make efforts to reclaim Choksi
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi confirmed India's efforts to reclaim Choksi for the first time on Thursday. “Let me emphasize that India remains steadfast in its efforts to ensure that fugitives are brought back to India to face justice,” MEA official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
In relation to Choksi's situation, he stated that the diamantaire is currently in the custody of Dominican authorities, where legal actions are pending. He stated, "We will continue to make every effort to ensure that he gets returned to India."
The MEA spokeswoman refused to provide any additional information, claiming that the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Who is Barbara Jabarica, the mystery woman?
“Over the past year, I have been on friendly terms with Barbara Jabarica. On 23 May, she asked me to pick her up at her house. When I went there, 8-10 men appeared from all the entrances and beat me mercilessly (sic),” according to ANI.
The man grabbed his phone, watch, and wallet, but returned his money, he said.
Choksi's lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, had indicated that his client was entrapped. According to Aggarwal, Choksi had been meeting with a woman named Barbara Jarabica from Bulgaria for the past six months, according to the Antiguan media. She befriended Choksi during morning walks. According to Aggarwal, she subsequently assisted in his kidnapping, after which he was transported in a yacht to Dominica.
Choksi's wife blames Indian authorities
Preeti Choksi, Choksi's wife, has implicated Indian intelligence agencies. “A woman named Babara, who claimed to be from the remodeling industry,” she alleged, would come to Antigua and meet Choksi. Barbara allegedly summoned Choksi to Jolly Harbour in Antigua on May 23 evening and requested him to join her in an apartment she was interested in purchasing.
Priti Choksi told The Indian Express, "Now, who would be interested in abducting my husband? It is 100 percent the handiwork of Indian agencies."