NEW DELHI: Fugitive billionaire and one of the prime accused in the Rs 12,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam, Mehul Choksi is allegedly indulging in bribing Antigua’s top offices including politicians and members of the judiciary to escape extradition to India. This has been alleged by Kenneth Rijock, a financial crimes expert based in Miami, Florida with vast years of experience of operating in the Caribbean countries including Antigua where Choksi is presently hiding in plain sight. The Sunday Guardian spoke to Rijock on Choksi when he made these allegations. Edited excerpts:
Q: Can you tell me about your professional background?
A: I am a financial crime consultant in Miami, Florida who specialises in white collar crime in the Caribbean. I was a bank attorney who spent a decade as a career money launderer in the 1980s, moving the proceeds of crime for American and European clients engaged in narcotics trafficking. I spent two years in federal prison for those crimes, and since then have been a consultant to the banking and law enforcement community on money laundering. I have lectured on money laundering in over 200 countries.
Q: How are you related to the Mehul Choksi case?
A: I have a special interest in the five East Caribbean states. (Saint Kitts, Antigua, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Grenada) that sell Citizenship by Investment passports as those identity documents facilitate transnational money laundering. I have been writing about Choksi since he arrived in Antigua. He has added to Antigua’s rampant official corruption by placing bribes with government officials, judges and police officers. I have several inside contacts in Antigua that I have developed over the years who have assisted me in exposing rampant corruption and facilitation of money laundering in that country.
Q: You have made some revealing points about how Choksi is bribing local officials to escape extradition to India. Can you name these officials?
A: They include…(The Sunday Guardian is withholding the names mentioned by Rijock).
Q: What proof do you have to back your allegations?
A: I rely upon first-hand witness statements from Antiguans that I then confirm through others who come forward to expose crime in their country, and want to see reform through public exposure of corruption that infects their government from top to bottom.
Q: Do you believe, in your professional capacity and given your experience, that Choksi is getting extra constitutional help from local authorities to avoid extradition to India?
A: Choksi’s case is definitely being indefinitely delayed, through filing of bogus appeals, the transfer of his case from one judge to the other and the intentional dilatory action of the Antigua judiciary, all of which is happening at the express order of the highest officials in the Antigua government, including but not limited to the office of Gaston Browne. Antigua has a long and sordid history of delaying the extradition of international white collar criminals who seek refuge there from justice at home, and pay handsomely to fix the local court system for that purpose.
I have to conceal the identity of my local Antiguan sources, lest they face arrest on bogus political charges, and the real threat of death from a corrupt Antigua royal police force.
My sources, some of whom are in government themselves, and in the opposition, are seeking reforms in a nation that is infected with an amoral greed to collect from criminals especially by selling the Antiguan passports and citizenship and taking huge bribes to fix extradition proceedings indefinitely.