BY FLYNN REMEDIOS | Panaji: Senior Goa Congress legislator Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco in an interview to Prudent Media has alleged that the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government in Goa was working over-time to bring in the 6th casino in the Mandovi river within a span of 3 days. “They are burning the midnight oil to make sure the 6th casino gets all the paperwork and documentation required to start operations, Lourenco alleged.
In the interview Lourenco was quoted as saying:
They have given the licence to Gopal Kanda. According to the Goa Gambling Act, a person who is accused in criminal or murder cases cannot be issued a license, but this BJP government has re-issued a gambling license to Kanda’s company (GGHPL) to operate the casino, Lourenco alleged, adding, I wonder if they are making financial arrangements to fund their campaign for the Panchayat elections or By-polls.
Lourenco came down heavily on the Goa government for ‘supporting’ the casinos, alleging that the casinos were funding the Goa BJP to keep its coalition partners happy. “Casino money is being used to buy MLAs and fund all election activity in Goa by the BJP,” he said.
Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd (GGHPL) is a company promoted by Haryana strongman and former minister Gopal Kanda, who was arrested a few years ago on charges of abetting the suicide of an air hostess Geetika Sharma.
GGHPL used to operate Casino Rio on the Mandovi River until 2011, but could not continue operations due to financial troubles faced by the company and criminal investigations on its promoter.
In 2013, the casino ship of GGHPL was towed away by the Goa ports department for failing to pay fees and taxes.
According to a report in the Times of India, the Gopal Kanda-promoted sixth off-shore casino is set to start its operations in River Mandovi from this month.
Even as there are ministers, who, at one time had strongly opposed the clearance for the sixth off-shore casino, the Manohar Parrikar cabinet granted permission to M/s Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd to operate its casino in River Mandovi for six months.
Consent to M/s Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd (GGHPL) to function in River Mandovi for the period staring April 1 to September 31, 2017, has been granted on par with five off-shore vessels already operating in the river. The permission has been granted in compliance with the high court order, the official said.
M/s Golden Globe Hotel Pvt Ltd obtained a relief after it had moved the high court on the failure of the state government to consider its case for renewal of licence even after it had paid dues of Rs 48 crore.
The GGHPL, a subsidiary of former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda’s MDLR Group, had filed a fresh petition for the renewal of licence of the offshore casino, before the home department earlier this month.
This was after the High court of Bombay at Goa had directed the state government to consider the application filed by GGHPL, seeking renewal of licence for its offshore casino in Mandovi within 24 hours. The home department had asked GGHPL to produce some statutory documents which was also complied with.
When the licence was renewed on March 9, Goa Forward Party had attacked the state government saying it had colluded with the casino lobby to bring in more casinos in the state.
In September 2016, the earlier Manohar Parrikar-led BJP state government has stated before the high court that it would favorably consider the application for further renewal of casino licences from the year 2016 in case GGHPL deposits the annual recurring fees. GGPHL had approached the court as the fee payable was to the tune of Rs 50 crore.
S G Desai, senior counsel appearing for the petitioners (GGHPL), had told the court that the payment would be made soon. And accordingly, the payments were made. As the government, apparently, fearing a backlash in the elections, didn’t renew the licence, the company approached the high court, reports the Times of India.
BJP is the only major party in Goa that did not take an overtly anti-casino stand during assembly election campaigning. Parrikar in his earlier stint as the state’s Chief Minister had on various occasions noted that while he does not support casinos, he would not close down the casinos that are currently operational. Parrikar’s successor and party colleague Laxmikant Parsekar had also said that BJP would not disturb the casino industry in order to retain investor confidence in the state.
BJP’s alliance partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party had also noted that while it does not encourage casinos it would not like to disrupt the existing casinos that are operational.
In the run-up to the Parrikar government formation, the Congress said the BJP had paid “casino money” to win over MLAs to its side.
Girish Chodonkar, the All India Congress Committee secretary, had then said: “More than Rs 1,000 crore they have used. Including the money from casinos. Because casino people were very much there in Raj Bhavan for the last two days.” He added: “I will request Parrikar to reveal BJP leaders’ (names), especially Sadanand Tanawde who has been calling up Congress MLAs. Let Parrikar release (the names) if he has the courage.”