PMO takes cognisance of complaint about money laundering in Goa

Panaji, Sep 12 (IANS) The PMO has asked the finance ministry to take “appropriate action” in the light of a complaint by a Goa-based anti-corruption NGO, which reported about linkages between a Goa-based hawala operator and the local casino industry.

The complaint was made in August.

An office memo, issued by Narendra Kumar, the under-secretary at the revenue co-ordination section of the union finance ministry, said the petition of Generation Next convenor Durgadas Kamat had been forwarded by the PMO “for appropriate action”.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kamat, also a secretary in the Goa Congress, alleged linkages between Raichand Soni, an alleged hawala operator who was arrested by the Crime Branch of the Goa Police in connection with the Louis Berger international bribery scandal, and the powerful casino lobby in Goa.

The casino lobby generates several hundred crore as direct revenue for the state government.

The NGO also furnished Soni’s mobile numbers registered in Dubai and Goa to the PMO, demanding that call records should be probed by the enforcement agencies.

“We have learnt that he is involved in hawala operations for casinos which are based in Goa and their clientele as well, which money is not accounted for and hence causes enormous loss to the state exchequer,” Kamat said in the complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soni was recently released on bail after nearly two weeks of incarceration in connection with the bribery case.

During arguments in court, police had accused Soni of being a hawala operator who facilitated the money paid as bribes to Goa ministers and bureaucrats in the Louis Berger case.

Soni, however, maintained that he was a businessman who shuttles between Dubai and Goa and has no linkage with the hawala industry.

The Enforcement Directorate had already registered an Economic Crime Investigation Report under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in connection with the Louis Berger bribery case and summoned Soni, top officials of the consultancy firm, as well as local politicians and bureaucrats for questioning.

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