In the new era of modern journalism, some major news organisations or journalists assume that they are above the law and blatantly provide verdicts on their own instead of waiting for the honourable court, where some may publish serious allegations with statements of one party and other pen down their own narrative without any evidence.
A similar case took place recently where a primary news provider based in London published an article that could not only influence readers but also derail court proceedings. An article published by Daily Mail with the headline “Special envoy to Britain who lives in £8million Mayfair mansion near the Ritz ‘planned a honeytrap plot to kidnap a diamond tycoon in the Caribbean… on India’s orders” clearly misleads and portrays malpractices of biased and paid journalism.
The news, which is said to be researched and written by Andy Jehring, openly supports the fictional narrative of an Indian fugitive, Mehul Choksi, who defrauded over US $2 billion from India and escaped to Antigua and Barbuda. It is evident that materials used to prepare the article are statements of Mehul Choksi, affidavits submitted to the court by his lawyers, and allegations by Choksi’s UK-based lawyer, Michael Polak.
The headline misleads that Gurdip Bath is guilty of planning a honeytrap plot to kidnap Mehul Choksi, displaying higher authority than the honourable Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. There is still no evidence submitted in the court of law which shows that Bath or any of the accused including Gurjit Bhandal, Gurmit Singh or Barbara Jarabik planned the kidnapping in the UK, nor any British agency is pursuing the case.
The author is subject to poor journalism practices as he did not furnish any evidence to back the claims written in the article. It is worth mentioning that few of the media houses which published articles on misleading claims of Mehul Choksi and opposition parties of both Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica apologized for malpractices following a defamation claim. There is no mention of those publications.
Each allegation or claim follows “according to the court claim filed by Mr Choksi.” It is essential to understand here that a billionaire fugitive has a highly paid team of lawyers who have an excellent knowledge of portraying the events to support their client regardless of credibility. Any person can submit a claim to pursue their case and a well-versed person with legal knowledge knows that not every statement in the claim is true. It is the duty of government authorities to ensure that the person has submitted their true and accurate statements. Authorities such as the police or attorney general of the country and in the case of Mehul Choksi both have refuted the kidnapping narrative of Choksi. They have already submitted their defence to the court, calling for the claim to be dismissed.
The author himself has mentioned, “The authorities finally filed a defence last week detailing steps taken since the kidnap and calling for the claim to be dismissed.” This clearly states that both highest investigative officials have noted that Mehul Choksi is misleading the case through bribes to high-profile media.
Besides this, the partiality of the article is visible where Mehul Choksi has been addressed as a “jewellery merchant” instead of a fugitive who looted a whopping USD 2 billion from India’s biggest public lender and then absconded to the Caribbean. His scams and later escape from India resulted in the loss of jobs for thousands of people, some of them getting into lifelong debts and never recovering.
Notably, at one point the article accuses authorities including the Commissioner of Police, Attorney General of lack of investigation into the matter, while on the other hand in the “headline”, the author is trying to imply that persons alleged by Choksi himself sentenced guilty.
The Commissioner of Police and Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda had sought to dismiss the case of Mehul Choksi’s alleged kidnapping as there was insufficient evidence to back the claim of the Indian fugitive. It is evident that Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne had also stated that he is not aware of “any conclusive evidence” that Mehul Choksi was kidnapped. But it appears that after losing on the hands of justice, Mehul Choksi is using the power of money where his PR company has gone further to convict the accused with their words. The author has gone farther than the authorities to announce a person convict.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) works differently than Choksi’s paid media and lawyers web. The NCA cannot take instructions from lawyers or paid journalists but they need concrete evidence to pursue the case. While the Antiguan authorities have multiple times declared there is not enough evidence to build the case, there is minimal chance of NCA being involved in the disappearance case of Mehul Choksi. Also, there is no proof in the public domain to legitimate the claims that the entire plot of kidnapping Mehul Choksi was prepared in the United Kingdom or whatsoever.
In an exclusive outcome it was revealed that UK-based lawyer of Choksi, Michael Polak had presented a speech at a Sikh temple that anti-India activist, Avtar Singh Khanda was poisoned by the Indian state. But his post-mortem report says differently and according to West Midlands police, he died due to terminal blood cancer.
Polak further quoted in a Daily Mail article states, “To fail to do so would allow Britain to be a haven for those accused of international criminal activity.” This statement contradicts his own actions as persons including his clients Avtar Singh Khanda, Hardeep Singh Nijjar among others were accused of severe international crimes. The UK is already a haven for many anti-national activists and Russians who pose a threat to the international community.
The author writes, “Mr Choksi’s legal team have obtained flight manifests, CCTV, witness accounts and other records,” but he missed that none of the accused have denied their entry into the country. Every individual charged by Choksi has never refused that they were not travelling to Antigua and Barbuda. They accepted that they were travelling for different purposes.
Gurjit Bhandal, one of the individuals accused in the case have maintained that he and his friend Gurmeet Singh had no involvement in the case. They have even asked authorities to look into their landing cards showing the dates they entered Antigua and Barbuda and when they left. They have added in the interviews that there is no evidence to prove that they even got into close proximity to Mehul Choksi during their trip to Antigua and Barbuda.
The article also lacks major independent reports by individuals such as Kenneth Rijock and others that prove that Mehul Choksi’s story of kidnapping is nothing but just a narrative.
It is unclear why the journalist discussed that CCTV footage proved that all the people in question were in Antigua and Barbuda. It is in the public domain that Bhandal and Singh as well as all other individuals in question have admitted that they were in the Caribbean for different reasons. They never denied their presence in Antigua and Barbuda during May 2021, providing their reasons for the trip.
The article states, “None of the individuals accused by Mr Choksi is a party to his case against the Antiguan authorities.” The statement conflicts with the whole news article as if the accused persons are not party in the case how they could be convicted of his abduction.
Furthermore, recently WIC News had published a report adding that a journalist from Daily Mail received a whopping £10,000 from a PR agency that acts on behalf of Mehul Choksi. The goal was reportedly to portray him as a victim of atrocities.
It is imperative to bring back journalism of ethics and well-researched reports rather than publishing a news story in a credible source for the public for exchange of bribes.