BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: More than one month ago, on 15th June, the India Against Corruption and Communalism (IACC) Forum had alleged that the Gopal Kanda promoted company Golden Globe Hotel Private Limited (GGHPL) paid or spent nearly Rs 5 crore in expenses and bribes to get all approvals, permissions and licenses for its casino vessel M V Lucky 7 to operate as an off shore casino and also move it to the Mandovi river during the monsoons.
Not just the IACC, even the Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) spokesperson Firoz Ahmed Khan had publicly accused the Goa Government of going easy on the company GGHPL and not forcefully opposing their petition in the High Court. Khan even went to the extent saying that the High Court allowed the Goa government and the GGHPL to get away with “murder”.
The IACC had then alleged that the amount was spent in order to clear the bottlenecks and red tape in bureaucracy and government including “court and legal expenses” as well as opposition from certain politicians and concerned officials.
What the IACC at that time one month ago had alleged was that everyone was “bribed” and their “palms greased abundantly” to allow the vessel to obtain the requisite permissions from the Goa Government via a petition in the Bombay High Court to re-locate to the Panaji inner port, in spite of everyone knowing of the risks involved.
The Captain of Ports (CoP) had expressed reservations, but they were over-ruled and the High Court permitted the vessel to move into the port as a “refuge vessel” on the grounds that the heavy saline content in the Vasco waters was damaging the vessel.
According to a report in today’s Herald, the Captain of Ports had filed an affidavit before the High Court making it very clear that it was dangerous to even attempt to bring in the vessel till September 15. But as Herald states, one wonders, why the government did not back its CoP more strongly to ensure that the misadventures of MV Lucky 7, could not take place, in the first place.
The answer and reason as to why the Goa government did not back its own CoP lies in the allegations made by the IACC one month ago.
At that time, when IndiaScribes.com ran the article (Read Here), based on the accusations made by the IACC and the GCAF as well as earlier interviews given by MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco most Goans and Goan politicians brushed it off as “Congress party sponsored rhetoric” and there were several comments on certain groups on Facebook accusing IndiaScribes.com of being a ‘fake, Congress-sponsored’ website.
Now that the M V Lucky 7 has run aground after getting stuck on the sandbar off the Miramar beach, as the owners and crew tried to move it into the port, the IACC sent us a SMS message, ‘we told you so’.
The bribes were paid to government officials, including officials of the Captain of Ports and several top politicians in the current Goa Government, the IACC has alleged.
Earlier about two months ago, senior Goa Congress legislator MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco in an interview to Prudent Media had made similar allegations 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 had then alleged.
In the interview Lourenco was quoted by Prudent Media 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 had then blasted the Goa government for ‘supporting’ the casinos, alleging that the casinos were funding the Goa BJP to keep its coalition partners happy. (Read Here) “Casino money is being used to buy MLAs and fund all election activity in Goa by the BJP,” he said.
M V Lucky Seven had been waiting to enter River Mandovi since May 19 after the government decided to renew the licence. Petitioner Golden Globe Hotels Private Limited had prayed before the High Court to direct the Goa government to allow the vessel to moor in River Mandovi as the vessel was getting damaged due to the high saline content in the sea off the MPT docks.
Following direction from the High Court of Bombay at Goa, officials of the Captain of Ports (CoP) carried out a survey of the vessel, which was then currently in the sea and in the jurisdiction of the Mormugao Port Trust. Sources said that the survey report was to be submitted to the CoP on June 21 reports Navhind Times.
The bribes were allegedly paid to ensure that the various departments concerned who were to issue the respective NOCs or No Objection Certificates did not create any hurdles or ask unwanted questions, says a spokesperson for the IACC Forum.
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The company officials had said that it intends to operate the offshore casino on River Mandovi by September after obtaining the no-objection certificate from the Captain of Ports and other necessary permissions from the authorities. Though the department permitted MV Lucky 7 to moor in the river, the vessel has not completed the registration process. “Only after the vessel is registered under the Inland Vessels Act, will the casino be allowed to operate,” sources said.
Admitting that the sixth casino could arrive in River Mandovi in the near future, by way of renewal of its licence by the government, former Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar, had earlier said that “the offshore casino will bring in Rs 50 crore to the government exchequer, and that the government just cannot refuse such an impressive revenue, during prevailing circumstances.”
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“If the government coffer receives this revenue by way of renewal of offshore casino licence, then why should I refuse it in times of financial crunch,” he questioned. It may be recalled that the government had recently expressed its opinion before the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court that if M/s Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd (GGHPL) pays the annual recurring fees to the government to the tune of Rs 50 crore, and applies for the renewal of its offshore casino licence, then the same could be considered positively.
ALSO READ: Funding for Goa By-Polls or Panchayat elections? Parrikar Govt working over time to bring in 6th Casino in Mandovi within 3 days alleges Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco
GGHPL, a subsidiary of former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda’s MDLR Group’s casino, had failed to pay the annual licence fee to the state government. The particular licence was earlier in the name of M/s Hotel Leela Venture Limited and subsequently transferred to GGHPL.
GGHPL, in turn, agreed before the court to pay the arrears to the state government within a stipulated time so as to enable the state government to take a decision to renew the offshore casino licence.
The former Chief Minister of Goa Laxmikant Parsekar had earlier said that the arrival of new vessel housing the sixth offshore casino should not be interpreted as a new offshore casino. “Although a new vessel is allowed to house an offshore casino byway of renewal of licence, we will not issue any fresh licence for such a casino,” he reiterated.