Goa chief minister’s office accused of casino licence scam

February 25th, 2009 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyPanaji, Feb 25 (IANS) Goa’s Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar Wednesday alleged that members of the chief minister’s office and the chief secretary of being part of a multi-million scam involving granting of licences to casino operators in the state.
Addressing a press conference here, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said officials from Chief Minister Digambar Kamat’s office and the chief secretary had “leaned” on Goa Commissioner of Customs of Central Excise (CCCE) C. Mathur, forcing him to release the ship MV Casino Royale, which was being probed by customs officials.

Parrikar circulated a letter issued by Mathur to his subordinate additional commissioner P.V.N. Suresh Babu Nov 3 last year, saying he had been requested to release the casino vessel.

“The chief secretary as well as officers from chief minister’s office have telephoned me requesting early release of the vessel as permitted under law,” the letter read.

“Why is the chief minister’s office as well as the chief secretary’s office directly calling a central government official? Why wasn’t protocol followed? What is the need for direct intervention and the great hurry displayed by officials in the CMO and the chief secretary himself, in asking customs officials to release the casino ship?” Parrikar asked.

The former chief minister also alleged that MV Casino Royale, which is owned by High Street Cruises, was a foreign ship and did not have a licence issued by the director general of shipping that was mandatory for a casino vessel.

“They only have a certificate of survey, which shows that the casino vessel has in fact been registered with director general of shipping as a cruise vessel and not a casino,” Parrikar said.

“This certificate too expired on Feb 15. The casino is blatantly illegal and is a public hazard,” he said.

Parrikar said that the unusual hurry displayed by customs officials in carrying out provisional assessment was shockingly brazen.

He read from the Nov 3 note again. “The action for release should be immediate and I direct that the provisional assessment formalities be completed by 4.30 p.m. today and the vessel released provisionally under all circumstances by 6 p.m.,” the note read.

“The sense of expediency showed by customs official here is extraordinary and it smacks of corruption,” Parrikar said.

Six offshore casinos vessels have been controversially squatting in the Mandovi river. The opposition has been alleging massive corruption in the state cabinet while granting licences to these casinos.

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