Kamat denies casino scam, Parrikar circulates ‘tell-tale’ letter

February 28th, 2009 - 6:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyPanaji, Feb 28 (IANS) Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat Saturday denied accusations that his office was involved in a multi-million scam involving granting of licenses to casino operators, but opposition leader Manohar Parrikar circulated copies of Chief Secretary J.P. Singh’s letter admitting that a foreign casino ship was recently granted a license.
Addressing a press conference here, Kamat said that no one from his office had telephonically contacted Goa Customs and Central Excise Commissioner C. Mathur, asking the latter to expeditiously release the ship MV Casino Royale, which was being probed by the customs department.

“I have verified with all four officers attached to my office. None of them have called the customs commissioner, who is unnecessarily dragging my name in the controversy,” Kamat added.

The chief minister said he will lodge a formal complaint against Mathur with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee when he visits New Delhi next week.

“I will seek strict action against Mathur for dragging the chief minister’s office into the casino controversy,” he said.

In an inter-departmental note issued to a subordinate, Mathur had said he had received telephone calls from the chief minister’s office and the chief secretary, requesting early release of the casino vessel.

On Wednesday, Parrikar circulated the note to the media and the next day Mathur told reporters that he had indeed recieved the telephone calls.

Parrikar had alleged that senior government officials were involved in a multi-crore scam.

On Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader claimed that the chief secretary had admitted to him that he had made the calls to Mathur.

“He also endorsed in writing that the controversial casino vessel in question, Casino Royale, owned by M/s High Street Cruises and Entertainment Pvt Ltd, was a foreign ship carrying a Comores flag,” Parrikar said, distributing a copy of a letter sent to him by J.P. Singh.

The letter dated Feb 25 reads: “Meanwhile, it has also been verbally intimated by M/s High Street Cruises and Entertainment Pvt Ltd that they have initiated the process of de-registering the vessel Casino Royale from the port of Moroni in the Union of Comores Islands to enable it to get an Indian flag from the director general of shipping in due course of time.”

“This proves that all rules and regulations under the Goa Public Gambling Act have been violated. The act necessitates that the vessel is to be given a table gambling licence only if it is registered in India and possesses a licence issued by the director general of shipping,” Parrikar said.

“If the ship is not an Indian vessel, the state government has no business issuing it a gambling licence. The ruling cabinet members and top bureaucrats have received nothing less that Rs.80 crore (Rs.800 million) as bribes to issue licences by flouting law, to each of the six off shore casinos which are operating in Goa presently,” he added.

Parrikar also said that a temporary no objection certificate (NOC) issued to the MV Casino Royale by the ports department to dock in the Mandovi river had already expired.

“The temporary two month NOC issued to the Casino Royale expired on Feb 18. Can you see the audacity of the government in granting a five year gambling licence to a vessel which has only a two month temporary NOC to park at a Goa port?” he asked.

Parrikar demanded a probe by the department of revenue intelligence into the loss of revenue to the state due to the premature release of MV Casino Royale on the alleged instructions of the chief minister’s office as well as the chief secretary.

“Our estimate is that the loss of revenue amounts to nearly Rs.4 crore (Rs.40 million),” he said.

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