How much was Goa’s biggest scam worth? Govt isn’t still sure

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Panaji, March 25 (IANS) Eight years after a judicial commission exposed Goa’s biggest scam, the Rs. 35,000 crore illegal mining scandal, the Goa government has still not been able to evaluate the exact loss caused to the state exchequer.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the ongoing budget session of the state legislative assembly on Thursday, that the “actual value” of the loss would be ascertained after the Goa government peruses the reports submitted by a committee of chartered accounts, which had been appointed to assess the findings of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report.
“Government is going as per (the) CA reports and actual value will be informed,” Sawant told Opposition MLA and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai during Question Hour.
The mines sector in Goa, which at its peak contributed around 17 per cent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product, has been plagued by scam after scam over the last decade, which has led to a complete stoppage of mining activity in the state twice since 2012.
However, the extent of the financial loss caused to the Goa government treasury by the mining scam exposed by the Shah Commission, has never been formally established, even though several figures have been doing the rounds over the years.
While the 2012 Shah Commission report, which indicted top bureaucrats, then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and nearly all the top mining companies in the state in the scam, pegging the loss to the government at Rs. 35,000 crore, figures put out by the BJP, now the ruling party, have fluctuated erratically.
In October 2011, top state BJP leaders including late Manohar Parrikar and then BJP national president Nitin Gadkari and then Rajya Sabha MP Kirit Somaiya had met President of India Pratibha Patil and accused the incumbent Congress-led coalition government in Goa of orchestrating a Rs. 25,000 crore illegal mining scam.
“This is the biggest illegal mining scam in India at Rs.25,000 crore in just two years. Like the 2G scam, the scam money is being routed through companies set up in tax havens like Mauritius and Cayman islands,” Somaiya had then maintained.
In the same year, Parrikar, then a Leader of Opposition and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, had pegged the scam at around Rs. 3,000 crore.
Once the BJP-led coalition government came to power however, Parrikar rubbished the findings of the Shah Commission report, stating that there were inadequacies in the findings and the loss estimation in the judicial commission’s report needed to be verified.
Parrikar had later appointed a committee of chartered accountants to analyse the scam-related findings of the report.
Parrikar had flip flopped once again in 2018, claiming that the extent of the scam was only between Rs. 50 crore to Rs. 100 crore, facing flak for his comments.
In the discussion during Question Hour on Thursday, Goa Forward party president Vijai Sardesai grilled Sawant over the government’s sluggishness in investigating the scandal, accusing mining companies of actually running the state government’s Directorate of Mines and Geology.
“There seems to be match-fixing in the mining case. The case has been dilly-dallying since 2012. Are mining companies running the Mining department?” Sardesai said.
In his response to the accusation, Sawant maintained that a Special Investigation Team formed by the state government to probe the mining scam had filed 16 First Information Reports, out of which eight cases have been chargesheeted and two cases are still under investigation.

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