The golden child

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In terms of luck, it’s hard to beat the man who strolled onto our island, hailing from the poorest and most wracked by corruption countries, threw a few millions around in cash and gifts and… open sesame! 

So, the luckiest guy on earth had his permits approved, through very careful planning by a government which focussed all its energy on not disappointing him. First, you will recall that the budget speech came with this very strange measure that took away the power of granting investment banking licences from the Bank of Mauritius and giving it to the Financial Services Commission. Then Sobrinho started pushing his way through his friend, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and his other acquaintances in government. So when three members resigned from the FSC as they refused to grant him an investment banking licence, they were immediately replaced by civil servants prepared to toe the line of the government and an emergency meeting was held on a weekend to satisfy the whims and desires of the spoilt child.

You will also recall the exchange of emails between Akilesh Deerpalsing, then executive consultant at the Financial Services Commission, and Gurib-Fakim, the woman who ducks when she needs to weigh in on serious issues in times of crisis but is always available when her friend with a most tarnished reputation calls for help to drive his dodgy projects. Remember the role she played in this sad chapter of Showkutally Soodhun calling part of our population ‘prostitutes’: None. When she appeared on television after a long absence chasing per diem, people initially could not remember who she was, until they thought of Sobrinho and then everything started falling into place. You will also remember that reputable lawyers advised against allowing the president’s friend to pour his alleged ill-gotten funds in our island. René Leclézio resigned from the BoI in protest against the government’s stubbornness to forge ahead with a licence that would damage our reputation forever. But Sobrinho still got his licence.

Remember, the guy corrupted a bank in his country by giving out dodgy loans which were never repaid. And he suddenly became so rich that he does not know what to do with his money other than get help to park it here! Remember also the number of people in government and the State House who bent over backwards to help him hide money he most probably stole from the poor and destitute in his country. 

And, when sesame opens, there is no limit. One hundred and thirty one luxury villas were purchased in one go and the licence granted. And don’t think you can joke with the luckiest guy on earth. Even the normal conditions set for investors – like channelling the money through a reputable bank, we now hear that Sobrinho is contesting and asking that the ‘conditions be reconsidered by the BoI’!

That in itself should have set all alarm bells ringing. A guy wants to invest money whose source we are not sure about – or maybe we are – while he is being investigated for corruption and money laundering in other countries. He throws some of the money in 131 luxury villas, pricing everyone out of the market. He wants an investment bank licence and finds the condition of channelling money through a bank that has a better reputation than the one he bankrupted very harsh and wants them reconsidered. 

How many more people need to resign and how much more damage needs to be done to our reputation before Sobrinho’s luck runs out?

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