Mehul Choksi may have to do time in ‘living hell’ Caribbean prison

MUMBAI: Mehul Choksi may have succeeded in stalling the attempts of multiple governments from repatriating him to India for now, but the fugitive diamantaire’s troubles may just be getting worse. With a Dominican court ordering him to be put in a prison, he may soon be sent to a cell that is nothing short of a living hell.
The prisons in the Caribbean are notorious for their appalling conditions – without a proper washroom, sanitation- stench would be coming from the corners and the cell itself would be occupied by inmates triple its capacity.
One of Choksi’s Dominican lawyers raised a stink recently on the way the absconding Indian businessman is being treated in the island nation. “You have arrested someone (Choksi) on suspicion. If toilet in the joint cell is not working, then you have that smell whole day. The inmates use the areas in corners to defecate and urinate or for any other thing they want to expel from their body,” he said terming the Choksi affair as anti-Dom-Indi fiasco.
Recently the Dominican court ordered that the Indian businessman, known to live in uber rich mansions, be sent to the prison. His lawyers have argued that he is unwell and managed to keep him in a hospital. “Formally, yes,” agreed Choksi’s Antigua lawyer Justin Simon that his client has been ordered to be sent to prison. “Due to his medical condition, he was returned to the hospital.
“Given his medical condition, staying in prison will be a challenge; that would not be justice served,” Simon remarked and threw some light on the state of prisons in the Caribbean. “As a place of rehabilitation, they are trash. To my mind they create an atmosphere which encourages further criminal behaviour due to influences and bad conditions.”
Lennox Lewis, the Dominica opposition leader, wondered how long Choksi can manage to stay out of the prison. “He is not in the prison at this time and has not yet experienced the conditions at the state prison. Since spending four days in a cell at Police Headquarters, he has been in hospital under police guard,” the Dominican leader said.
So pathetic are the prisons in the region that Britain refused to deport an Englishman accused of rape in Antigua last year. He was eventually extradited, but only on the condition that he would not be put in awful Antiguan prison.
“I can point to a case here in Antigua that involved a British cop who was accused of rape here in an island,” Algernon Watts, a social and political commentator and a radio talk show host for 20 years on the island, told TOI. “He went back to England. When we wanted to have him extradited to Antigua, Briton refused saying that the prison here is inhuman. We had to sign a contract with England that he will not be housed in the prison. Even though he is convicted of rape, he is being held in a facility that was used by the US naval base. He was convicted last year. He is in the old US Navy base. That is how bad the prisons in the Caribbean are.”
The Antiguan prison was built in 1735, and it has five times the capacity of inmates housed there. In some instances, 8-10 prisoners are kept in one cell, just as in the jails in Dominica. “There is no bathroom facility inside the cell, they have to use one bucket of water to use all their daily chores. It is there for the whole day. Next morning, the prisoners take it out, wash it. It is horrible and deplorable, full of stench. Just the other day one inmate caught Covid and he infected it to the entire prison,” Watts revealed.
A media professional from Antigua and Barbuda has felt Choksi, who resided in the most affluent locality in Antigua, could be in for a real shock when he is sent to the jail. “Antigua or Dominica, the prisons are horrible. Actually, horrible is an understatement,” he said.

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