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BJP yet again caught in a casino controversy (Goa Newsletter)

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, Panaji, Aug 24 : Casinos - and controversies surrounding the industry - continue to be the bugbear of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) more than a year after coming to power in Goa.


In the latest salvo, the Congress has accused Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, as well as Delta Corp Ltd, promoter of Casino Horseshoe, Goa's biggest offshore casino, of playing cozy and indulging in "insider trading" that resulted in what the Congress claims is a windfall of Rs.431 crore.

Both Delta Corp Limited and Parrikar have rejected the claims made by Congress spokesperson Reginaldo Lourenco, terming them "baseless".

Addressing a press conference earlier this week, Lourenco had alleged that despite an air of uncertainty and controversy over granting permission to Casino Horseshoe to operate, the Goa government had a hidden understanding with Delta Corp to allow it to operate.

"Both Delta Corp and Parrikar knew that the licence would be given. Delta Corp only utilized the confusion to manipulate the stock market, caused by the air of indecision created by the government. According to the information we have, Rs.431 crore was made by the promoters of the company in the last one month alone because of insider trading," Lourenco said.

Casino Horseshoe dropped anchor in the Mandovi river a few weeks ago. While Delta Corp claimed that it was only intended to replace an existing vessel owned by the company, the opposition as well as civil society activists claimed that a licence to operate should not be granted to a new vessel.

Noting that at a time when the Sensex was consistently dropping, the Delta Corp share price rose "by 43 percent from Rs.44 to Rs.63 during the period" and Lourenco said this needed to be probed.

"The Congress will complain about this insider trading to the Securities and Exchange Board of India as well as to the union finance ministry," Lourenco said.

Asked for a reaction, a Delta Corp spokesperson told IANS via email: "As a matter of practice, Delta Corp Ltd does not comment on baseless allegations made by any individual."

Parrikar has also termed Lourenco's allegations "baseless", adding that a government would not be able to function "if one links every decision of its to insider trading".

"Once the state cabinet took a policy decision on casinos, I as the minister with the home portfolio just followed the policy. Therefore, one should not attribute this decision to me only," he told reporters.

Parrikar said that he does not have any stake in the company and added that if "the shares of Delta Corp have taken a leap, then my government has no direct or indirect hand in it".

This is not the BJP's first brush with a casino-related controversy.

One of the poll planks of the party in the run up to the March 2012 assembly polls was to push the offshore casino industry from the Mandovi river off Panaji into the deep sea, as most offshore casinos elsewhere in the world are located.

However, the inability of the BJP-led coalition government to do so over the last one year and the chief minister's alleged proximity to casino industry magnates has resulted in the party being accused of playing into the hands of the casino lobby.

Parrikar has however publicly defended his friendship with Delta Corp promoter Jaidev Mody, saying this would have no bearing on the decisions he takes as chief minister.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 24-08-2013)

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