Raychand Soni was arrested by Indian authorities earlier this week as he was accused of being a key ‘hawala operator’ involving bribery allegations against Louis Berger, a company that had won a contract to execute water supply and sewage management in Goa, Maharashtra.
Interpol defines the term ‘hawala’ as a ‘money transfer without money movement’ and Raychand Soni was accused of being instrumental in supplying funds to pay off government officials in Goa to help Louis Berger obtain the contract. Indian authorities have recently added more charges to Raychand Soni’s charge sheet as they have also accused him of channelling Hawala funds to Goa’s casinos.
The Crime Branch in India has stated that Soni was responsible for bribing Goa’s ex-chief minister Digambar Kamat and Churchill Alemao, the former State Public Works department minister. Due to strict regulations imposed by the Indian government, casino establishments often have to develop strong contacts with high profile politicians to ensure that their business runs smoothly.
Casino establishments often bestow special privileges and gifts to these high ranking politicians in order to maintain their good-will and be in a position to ask for favours whenever required. Raychand Soni has been accused of providing these high ranking politicians special gifts on behalf of the casinos but the authorities are yet to determine from where Soni obtained his funds.
G D Kirtani, the special public prosecutor told Judge B P Deshpande that Soni is responsible for funding a number of casinos in Goa and they continue to operate because Soni is there to pay cash to whosoever and whenever it is required. In a statement, Kirtani said “The identity of the source/person who had delivered the cash from outside Goa to the accused has to be revealed, while also the chain of transfer of money. It is a vital link. His involvement in hawala transaction which is illegal and encourages other illegal things into the picture deteriorates a nation in all aspects,”
Soni and his legal counsel have denied all allegations and stated that he was in no way connected to a hawala operation. Soni defended himself in the court by declaring in a statement that he is extremely wealth due to his extensive real estate business and was in a habit of receiving and withdrawing large sums of cash on a regular basis.
G D Kirtani did not accept this argument and convinced the quote to extend Soni’s custody by another three days stating that further interrogation would reveal the actual source of his funds.