Priti Choksi, wife of fugitive diamond dealer Mehul Choksi, has lived in Antigua since 2018. She says she feels trapped after her husband was reportedly kidnapped, tortured and taken from Antigua to Dominica in a boat on May 23. “Priti told LA WEEK.” People call us crooks. But the Jain community supports us.
Excerpts from the interview:
How long have you lived in Antigua?
I had never visited Antigua before 2018, (ie) when we moved here. Mehul must have been here before, when he applied for citizenship and came to the swearing-in ceremony in 2017. We don’t know many Indians here. The fact that there is a red corner notice against him put us in a situation close to jail. We cannot travel freely. I feel like I’m already living in prison. The island is my prison.
Mehul Choksi is reported to have led an extravagant life.
We live in a rented property and drive a used or third hand car. It’s a Japanese or Chinese car. So you can imagine our way of life. We live in a gated community, where most of the people are expats. People ostracized us. After learning about the accusations made by Indian investigative agencies, they began to make vague comments. Some called us crooks.
The local people are nice and kind. But we don’t have any friends in the family.
How do you manage your expenses? Have you or your husband taken a job?
He is not doing well; most of his time here was spent visiting doctors or lawyers. We don’t have a lot of expenses. We are Jains. We don’t eat non-vegetarian food and we lead a simple life. I am not an employee. There is no temple where we live, so I built a small temple in our house with two or three pictures of our gurus. This is where I spend my time.
Do you have the support of your family or friends in India?
The whole Jain community came to support us. Jains around the world have supported us.
There is speculation that you got divorced.
It’s our 35th wedding anniversary.
Where were you when Mehul Choksi disappeared?
I was in my house. We were all seated and waiting for him to come back. My children are worried; we are all clueless.
Do you know Barbara Jarabik? How do you react to the reports that she was Choksi’s girlfriend?
We are traumatized. Barbara had rented an apartment across from our house in August 2020 and used to meet my husband on his walks. He likes to walk on the beach and Barbara was once there. It was an acquaintance with whom he walked. I never spoke to her, but she used to contact my husband every now and then for help. She said she was in the home improvement industry.
On May 23, he left in his car to meet her for dinner. She had been staying in a hotel for some time and would call him to chat over a meal about a property she had to renovate at the behest of her boss. He had just recovered from the Covid and was not going out. That day he went out for dinner.
When did he contract the Covid?
We both had it in February. My case was very serious and I had to leave Antigua for treatment. He was also ill for a while. Now we are both vaccinated. Mehul has heart problems, high blood pressure, and many other ailments; he hadn’t received proper medical assistance here. He had applied for permission to travel to Miami last year for treatment, but it was refused after objections from India.
Are there reports that Barbara was involved in the kidnapping of Choksi?
From what I learned, when Mehul went to pick her up, the door to her house was open. She asked him to come inside, saying she wanted to show him something. As soon as he got out of his car, eight to ten men in blue uniforms grabbed him. They beat him, blindfolded him and gagged him with a plastic tarp, tied him to a wheelchair and took him to a boat in Jolly Harbor. They told him not to mention Barbara and to cooperate with them. He was half unconscious. They gave him electric shocks and confiscated all of his money, watch and bank cards. We don’t know where Barbara is today.
What is your biggest concern?
I want to ask the authorities: are we no longer under the rule of law? It is quite simply contrary to basic human rights. Even if there is an investigation, there are procedures to follow. You cannot just kidnap someone, torture them and deport them.
My husband is 63 years old and needs medical attention. How do the Dominican authorities keep him in police custody for so long? Mehul is not an accused in the CBI indictment against Nirav Modi. But still a red corner notice was issued against him.
Are you planning to appeal to UK?
I appeal to the Queen, who is the Head of State of Antigua and Barbuda. I will approach international forums against kidnappings and human rights violations in my husband’s case.
Are there reports of two Indian men accompanying Choksi on the boat?
Everyone knows what happened. The ship’s crew included two men from the Punjab. I later learned that one of them was from Birmingham. As it was a public holiday in Dominica when they disembarked, Mehul stayed in the boat for a whole day. They mistreated and mistreated him.
Do you miss India?
Certainly yes. What I miss the most is going to the temples, to our guru ji. We regularly visited the temples of Teen Batti [in Mumbai].
How was your lifestyle in India?
We are religious people and we believe in charity. On December 24, 2017, before leaving for Antigua, we opened a girls’ school in Ahmedabad. We have also contributed to the creation of an engineering school. Mehul is a philanthropist, but now he’s called a crook.
Do you want to return to India?
I want my husband to go back to Antigua. I want justice.